Tough Act to Follow

"If there's one thing history has taught us, besides not to piss off people called Genghis or put lead in your water pipes, it's that if you're going to make something incredibly good that becomes frighteningly popular, make sure it's the last thing you ever make in your entire life because otherwise you get to spend the rest of your creative career struggling under the weight of high expectations and bricks."
Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, Spore Review

A work which attains such overwhelming success that it dooms its creator's later efforts to languish in its shadow. The follow-up may have its own merits, but fans will dismiss it because it doesn't stand up to the original.

Essentially the creative version of typecasting.

Contrast Protection from Editors, for when the new creations do suck but get published anyway, or need more work if they're not going to suck but no one dares tell you this. Compare with Glory Days. See also First Installment Wins, Sophomore Slump, Post-Script Season, and One-Hit Wonder. If fans becomes split over this, it will lead to a Broken Base. This will often lead to sequelitis and/or contested sequels. Frustration over this trope may cause Creator Backlash. If the creator views any subsequent work(s) as superior to the overshadowing 'masterpiece', then it may also be a case of Magnum Opus Dissonance.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Believed to be the reason why Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki was not (and likely will never be) able to have another series which runs longer than 10 volumes, the magic number where Busou Renkin ended publication. Gun Blaze West was cancelled after only three.
  • After Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno tried to make "serious" films, and publicly bashed both Evangelion fans and otakus in general. He never managed to make anything as widely successful or influential as Eva, and eventually gave in and created the Rebuild of Evangelion series over a decade later.
  • Saint Seiya fell victim to this. Kurumada's first runaway hit was Ring Ni Kakero, a boxing drama although with its share of Shonen elements. Saint Seiya was the closest he got, but it lost popularity and was forced to conclude with a Bittersweet Ending. A few of his works have tanked and the only series post-Kakero he was able to end on his terms was B't X.
  • Naoko Takeuchi was less than well received after having completed Sailor Moon, and never managed to finish anything else afterwards, leaving several Orphaned Series behind.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino had this problem with Mobile Suit Gundam. He became very bitter over this, but has lightened up considerably since working on Turn A Gundam.
  • Yudetamago ran into this after concluding Kinnikuman.
  • Director Kazuki Akane started strong with The Vision of Escaflowne, which became wildly popular (even broadcast on Fox Kids in the United States), and remains to this day one of the most iconic anime from the 1990s. His next project was Geneshaft, which was seen by few and hated by most who did. His next creation was Heat Guy J; most who know of it know only about how much Geneon paid for it (as much as FUNimation paid for Fullmetal Alchemist) and how poorly it sold. Next came Noein, which fared better in popularity and reception, but only modestly. His latest work was Birdy the Mighty: Decode, which sold very poorly in Japan.
  • Tetsuo Hara first hit it big with Hokuto no Ken, which became one of Weekly Shonen Jump's landmark titles during its Golden Age, setting the template for fighting manga for years to come. Cyber Blue, the immediate follow-up, only lasted a year in serialization despite some initial hype. His fourth serial, Hana no Keiji (a samurai manga based on Keiichiro Ryu's period novel), fared a lot better, becoming his second most successful manga. After his next serial, Takeki Ryusei, also got cut short, Hara would adapt yet another Keiichiro Ryu novel for Jump (Kagemusha Tokugama Ieyasu, which ended up being retooled into Sakon mid-run and moved to Monthly Shōnen Jump) and a few other short serials for other magazines before leaving Shueisha altogether in 2000. He eventually formed the production company Coamix with his former editor-in-chief Nobuhiko Horie in 2001, where he was given the creative freedom to work on the Hokuto no Ken prequel Sōten no Ken, which enjoyed moderate success during its ten year run.
    • This also applies to Fist of the North Star itself, as the conflict between the four Hokuto brothers is considered to be the high point of the manga and everything after Raoh's death (generally regarded to be Kenshiro's ultimate rival) is all downhill. In fact, the final chapters after the Land of Shura arc (which is the last big conflict in the manga) were not adapted for the anime series.
  • Akira Toriyama has created quite a few short manga since Dragon Ball, but they've barely registered on most people's radars. It might be because they're almost all single-volume series, though. He's never even attempted a long series since Dragon Ball ended, partially for fear of this trope. He does avert this trope in the video game realm, where he remains quite popular as the head artist for the cult classic games Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and the Dragon Quest series. His earlier series, Dr. Slump, was a huge success in its native Japan, and was considered the tough act there.
  • Office Academy, the company behind Space Battleship Yamato, made several forgettable series such as Space Carrier Blue Noah that failed to gain recognition inside or outside of Japan, unlike Yamato.
  • Quite possibly the reasoning for nothing but more Yu-Gi-Oh! from Kazuki Takahashi. And even then, his input has fallen from writing the manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!), to having major input and plot work on the anime (GX), to just doing character designs (5Ds and Zexal).
  • None of Ryosuke Takahashi's works after Armored Trooper VOTOMS managed to achieve the same level of acclaim and longevity as that aforementioned series, with Yoroiden Samurai Troopers coming the closest (but even that didn't last past the early nineties). As a result, he's ended up handling most of VOTOMS' prequel and sequel OVAs.
  • The HeartCatch Pretty Cure! series, considered to be one of the best seasons in the entire Pretty Cure franchise, due to its Darker and Edgier plot and having even more over-the-top fight scenes compared to its predecessors has left the few seasons after it as part of this trope.
  • After Sazae-san had become a huge success and the most viewed anime ever (a record which remains unbeaten to this day), Machiko Hasegawa created a new comic strip called Granny Mischief about an old woman who always spent her time creating trouble for her fellow man with all kinds of pranks. It's just as funny as Sazae-san, but never became quite as popular.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's was a major improvement from the first series for many fans. StrikerS, however, wasn't that popular with fans because it didn't live up to the complexity and awesomeness that was A's. The manga sequels and movies have suffered from this as well.
  • Bartender: According to Hanegashima, every cocktail is a Tough Act to Follow. Either you underperform, and the customer will never return, or you do your best, and your customer will come back, and expect you to do even better.
  • This is probably the reason why Eiichiro Oda has said he won't do anything else after One Piece is finished.
  • Following the cult success of Blood: The Last Vampire and Blood+, CLAMP is entrusted to work with Production I.G on their own version, Blood-C. However, the overall reception of the franchise is mixed, coupled with the low BD/DVD sales of the TV series and the movie being bombed in the Japanese box office despite the latter being funded by the Japanese government. This also affected CLAMP's later works.
  • Gunnm Last Order is an example. The original Gunnm was a huge success; it was translated into English under the name Battle Angel Alita and became a must read manga classic for people getting into the genre. The sequel is no where near as successful and only survived mainly because of dedicated fans of the original giving it a cult following.
  • Gunsmith Cats was a very popular Girls with Guns manga and did good enough to get a well made 3 episode OVA that also became very popular. The follow up Gunsmith Cats Crash, was rejected by most fans for it being just silly action with no focus on plot and character development like the original.
  • When it comes to the Pokémon movies, only the first (in its original Japanese version), third, are regarded as the best (though the eighth and fifteenth movies are just as well-regarded). All the others have been seen as So Okay, It's Average at best, and have grossed less in Japanese theaters.
  • The Unicron Trilogy zig-zags this a bit. Transformers Armada isn't exactly a masterpiece and has a very slow beginning, but partway in it found its footing and dramatically increased in quality. This created decently high hopes for its sequel Transformers Energon; hopes that Energon, having a very rushed Troubled Production, could never meet. The final installment, Transformers Cybertron, ended up inverting this trend; Energon's disastrous launch left a very low bar that Cybertron, with its strong Character Development and plotting, was easily able to jump over.

    Comic Books 
  • Art Spiegelman when it comes to his "comix" duology Maus. He has been quite vocal about how he never expected the "monument to my father" to become so popular, nor did he expect that his later works would be greeted by wishes for Maus III.
    Spiegelman: I'm proud that I did Maus; I'm glad that I did it. I don't really regret it. But the aftershock is that no matter what else I do or even most other cartoonists might do, it's like, well, there’s this other thing that stands in a separate category and it has some kind of canonical status.
  • Jim Starlin, who thanks to his masterful work crafting The Infinity Gauntlet, has every comic book given to him compared to it and rarely in a favorable light.
  • After Kurt Busiek's historic Avengers run, Geoff Johns took over the title, only to quickly quit and jump ship back to DC due to Executive Meddling. Chuck Austen followed Johns' run, and was widely considered to be one of the worst writers in the franchise's history. Sales fell so sharply that Marvel cancelled the book with Avengers Disassembled and allowed Brian Bendis to reboot it as New Avengers, which was a much stronger seller.
  • Chris Claremont on the X-Men; only a bare handful of writers have managed to carve an identity out on the X-Books that did not have Claremont's shadow hanging over them. Similarly, everything Chris Claremont himself has done since then has been inevitably been declared not as good as his original X-Men run.
  • Green Lantern has Ron Marz, who made the book a hit with the introduction of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern. When he left the book, he was replaced with Judd Winick, whose run started to bleed readership. Following him was Ben Raab, whose run was so reviled that many Rayner fans blame him (in addition to Winick) for sinking the sales of the title and basically forcing DC to bring Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern to stop the bleeding.
  • Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis inevitably have every series they launch compared to their classic Justice League International run, no matter how different their new projects are. They finally gave in and accepted this, as they started writing a new Justice League spin-off as part of the New 52.
  • Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never created anything that people remembered to nearly the extent of Superman. Same with Batman's creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who created most of Batman's traits and key characters though Kane got sole credit due to a contract stipulation until 2015 when Finger was finally given co-creator credit on Batman associated media).
  • Cullen Bunn had the unfortunate luck of writing for Agent Venom right after Rick Remender's run, which was praised by fans and critics alike. While plenty of people liked his work on the title, it was almost universally viewed as a step down in quality and the book ended up being cancelled right in the middle of resolving its Myth Arc.
  • Christopher Priest basically redefined Black Panther in every way and to this day his run is considered by many to be the greatest book Panther has ever had. He was followed by Reginald Hudlin, whose work was immediately hit by the this trope in full force. His run initially outsold Priest's by quite a bit, but as time went on, sales fell sharply. A relaunch stunt involving T'Challa's sister Shuri taking over as the lead didn't do much better, and the title was eventually cancelled under new writer Jonathan Maberry.
  • Averted with Seconds. While Bryan Lee O'Malley one-upping himself over Scott Pilgrim was going to be very difficult, the general consensus seems to be that he succeeded.
  • Sombra's issue of My Little Pony: Fiendship Is Magic was very well received, being well written and giving what fans wanted from his backstory, and set the high bar against which the subsequent issues would be measured.
  • Any Daredevil run following the hugely successful Bendis and Brubaker eras. Both were massively successful mega hits and award winners, and the follow-up, Andy Diggle's run, is as a result not looked highly upon. Waid's run gets a pass for being very tonally different than the Bendis and Brubaker runs, but the Soule run that followed got this treatment for not living up to all three runs, as well as the hit Netflix series.
    • And as awesome as Bendis and Brubaker were, their era still lives uncomfortably under the shadow of the Frank Miller era...
  • Anything X-Force related following Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force. While the previous run had its fans, it has a very big Broken Base for being almost a parody of what X-Force is (mutants who kill to protect other mutants). Remender portrayed this and didn’t glorify it, and in fact deconstructed the entire idea of a mutant kill squad, while still allowing for character development. The runs that followed... well, they’re more traditional X-Force runs (meaning style over substance and grimdark galore), and just aren’t considered as good. To put it lightly: ‘’Uncanny X-Force’’ is considered not only the best X-Force run, but also one of the best X-Men comics of all time, while everything that followed is barely remembered.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney Animated Canon:
    • One of Walt Disney's early successes was the cartoon short The Three Little Pigs" (which featured the song "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?") Other follow-up cartoons with the same characters were less successful, which prompted Walt to comment, "You can't top pigs with pigs."note 
    • Disney suffered this after his attempts at surpassing Snow White's success with several experimental films ended in disaster in the 40'snote , not having another big hit until 1950's Cinderella gave the company the boost it needed.
    • The Sword in the Stone would probably be more known today if it hadn't been released between two of Walt Disney's biggest animated hits, 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book.
    • The Rescuers Down Under had a very tough act to follow in The Little Mermaid and boy, did that turn out ugly (receiving mixed-to-negative reviews and flopping at the box office). Down Under is today one of Disney's obscurities, barely known by the general public (also being followed by Beauty and the Beast), although it has become a Cult Classic in its own right. Heck, it is even generally considered to be even better than its predecessor, The Rescuers in practically every way.
    • In The '90s, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules were the three films immediately following The Lion King. These are also the three most controversial 1990s Disney Animated Canon entries, although Herc was received much better than Hunchback, and both were received better than the decidedly So Okay, It's Average Pocahontas. Mulan and Tarzan in turn were received better than Herc and Hunchback. All five, however, are usually as fondly remembered by children of The '90s as the earlier canon installments.
    • Fantasia 2000 came a whopping sixty years after Fantasia. To say this trope was fully into effect at the time of the release is putting it mildly.
    • Ironically reversed in between the releases of Home on the Range and The Princess and the Frog. Range was hated so badly by the entire Disney community and audiences alike (despite getting at least mixed to average reviews from critics, according to a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes... no joke!), Princess could be nothing but spectacular compared to it.
    • Big Hero 6 got hit with this for similar reasons to The Sword in the Stone. While the movie itself was far from a failure, it does tend to get overlooked because it was released in between the cultural juggernaut Frozen and the enormously popular Zootopia, both of which made over a billion dollars at the box office. It also leads into the problem of optics: Frozen and Zootopia were sleeper hits that weren't expected to make anywhere near as much money as they did, while Big Hero 6 was a superhero movie made during a golden age of superhero movie profitability, so while its $657 million gross does make it one of the biggest movies ever for Disney Animation, it also made it the lowest-grossing major superhero film of 2014. Its opening weekend was in fact considered so unremarkable that the Hollywood trades didn't even focus on Big Hero 6 taking the #1 spot in the U.S., but rather on Christopher Nolan's hugely-anticipated Interstellar "embarrasingly" taking the #2 spot behind a Disney cartoon. It doesn't help that people in countries like the UK had to wait months before it came to cinemas there, by which point most people had either watched it illegally or just lost interest.
  • Pixar
    • Lee Unkrich admitted to waking up physically ill from worry while directing Toy Story 3, afraid he would screw up the series. He turned out to be wrong, as the third film was warmly accepted by the fans and critics alike.
    • Unfortunately, that warm response has made Toy Story 3 this for Pixar; their next film, Cars 2, was the company's first outright failure with critics, while Brave didn't exactly help matters (in spite of it still garnering positive reviews and winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar for 2012, it was a surprise win over Disney's better-recieved Wreck-It Ralph), with Monsters University being the studio's lone standout of the period (the critically better-received of the trio). It didn't seem to shake off the cobwebs until the release of Inside Out.
    • The Good Dinosaur then fell into this rut as well. The film's delayed release resulted in it debuting just five months after Inside Out, the film that was heralded as Pixar's return to form and one of the greatest family films of the decade, if not of all time. As a result, the movie was generally well-received, more so than Pixar's infamous Cars 2 beforehand, but not nearly as much as its predecessor and only around the same lines as Brave and Monsters University. More concerning, it's also the first Pixar film to actually be a domestic Box Office Bomb after 20 years of the studio's filmography (Pixar's rivals at Disney Animation and DreamWorks Animation had bombs handed to then rather early in their existence, with Pinocchio and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, respectively.)
    • With Toy Story 4 officially announced for 2017, this trope is coming full into effect for the franchise, with moviegoers wondering how a fourth film could possibly top the third.
    • Somewhat downplayed in regards to Finding Dory to its predecessor Finding Nemo. Consensus-wise, Finding Dory isn't exactly as well-recieved as its predecessor (or even its Disney-canon counterpart, Zootopia), but is still regarded by many to be a worthy follow-up to Finding Nemo nonetheless (especially with its record-breaking box-office results, such as (so far) the highest-grossing animated film in North America, since Shrek 2).
  • Pixar's rivals at Dreamworks are also liable to suffer this as well:
    • Shark Tale came out just after Shrek 2 became a smash. The film's attempt into a more mature story (the death of an instrumental character) didn't tune in with either audiences nor critics, and was received much less favorably. This film also followed Finding Nemo, and got two negative labels: being called a mess all of the negative cliches DWA has been derided for, and having the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score out of all of their movies. It didn't help that the studio's following film, Madagascar would become wildly popular.
    • Monsters vs. Aliens was a milder version, as it was sandwiched between Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, with both becoming notable for marking Dreamworks' turn into more story-based films.
    • The studio entered a devastating rout after Madagascar: Europe's Most Wanted: A few films like The Croods, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and How To Train Your Dragon 2 became modest successes although neither got much notice. On the other side, Rise of the Guardians, Turbo and Penguins of Madagascar became notorious bombs that almost bankrupted the studio. After Penguins was released, DreamWorks's PDI branch was closed while COO Mark Zoradi (a 30-year Disney vet who had only joined the studio months earlier), and CCO Bill Damaschke were fired. By 2015 however, Home gave studio a badly-needed boost and Kung Fu Panda 3 became as successful as the series' previous entries.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks is considered a Surprisingly Improved Sequel and Growing the Beard to the Equestria Girls Spin-Off. Its sequel, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, had a lot to live up to. Opinions are divided regarding how well it compares.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Actor turned director Richard Attenborough's greatest achievement was Gandhi. His next film right after Gandhi was the much maligned film version of A Chorus Line. His subsequent efforts though better received included biopic Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr. (which got him his first Oscar nomination), Shadowlands starring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis, and Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan never had the same level success. He found better success returning to acting in films like Jurassic Park and the remake of Miracle on 34th Street.
  • Roberto Benigni directed the film Life Is Beautiful, which netted him several Oscars. His next film, a big budget adaptation of Pinocchio, was a massive flop with a terrible English dub and a truly ludicrous case of Dawson Casting.
  • After Easy Rider the studio gave Dennis Hopper carte blanche. The result: The Last Movie, which was once considered to be one of the 50 worst movies of all time. Hopper's later films were mostly duds, although Colors became both a critical and financial success and The Hot Spot has been Vindicated by History.
  • Director Michael Cimino had an unbroken string of hits starting with Silent Running, and continuing through Magnum Force, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and The Deer Hunter (for which he won two Oscars). As a result, United Artists gave him free rein on his next picture. The result was the Western Heaven's Gate, a film that lost so much money it effectively bankrupted United Artists and killed Cimino's career as a big studio movie director. It also killed off the entire notion of a director's creative control in Hollywood.
    Miles Antwiler: This is a horrendous movie which highlights the express elevator to rock bottom in the career of Michael Cimino. With each passing movie his potential and talent just go down down down. There was a time when I only had seen Deer Hunter and I pondered to myself how someone like this could never get another hit again. Well, I now know and it was a brutal lesson to learn.
  • Judd Apatow's Funny People came on the heels of Knocked Up; one of the highest grossing R-rated movies of all time, and one of the most critically acclaimed of 2007. Funny People got mixed reviews, and nearly completely fell out of the top ten within a few weeks of its opening.
  • Mel Brooks followed up his musical version of The Producers, which ran for six years on Broadway and set a record for Tony Award wins, with a Young Frankenstein musical that brought back Susan Stroman as director-choreographer and Thomas Meehan as co-writer on the book. Despite huge anticipation and ticket prices that topped out at $450 for the very best seats, it was dismissed as unable to live up to its source material and its stage predecessor by critics, was mostly ignored when it came to Tony nominations and won none of the three it received, and only ran for 15 months (counting previews).
  • Richard Kelly started his career with the cult-favorite Donnie Darko. His next big move: Southland Tales, which did so terribly with both critics and the public that Hollywood ran his Auteur License through a shredder. (Domino came before Southland, but Kelly was only screenwriter on it, not director.)
  • In 2002, Rob Marshall directed Chicago which was a smash-hit and the first musical in over thirty years to win the Best Picture Academy Award. His next musical, 9, was a critical and financial disaster which failed to win any of the four Oscars it was up for.
  • After the incredible success of Deliverance, John Boorman was given free rein to make the movie he always dreamed of making. The result? Zardoz.
  • One for Adventureland that noted that many directors follow up a mainstream success with a more ambitious, personal movie that fails to find an audience, which sadly did end up happening to Adventureland. It was directed by Greg Mottola, who also directed Superbad. Mottola himself expected this to happen.
  • Alien is one of the best horror films of all time. Aliens is one of the best action films of all time. Alienł, while a pretty severely flawed film, probably gets more flak than it deserves because of this trope.
  • Olivier Dahan decided to follow-up La Vie en Rose (which won Marion Cotillard an Oscar) with My Own Love Song. The resulting film was a complete mess that badly tries to combine country music with the supernatural and was destroyed by critics at its festival screenings. The final movie got dropped by two different distributors (Fox and Lionsgate) and was quietly sent straight-to-DVD (even with Renee Zellweger, Forest Whitaker and Nick Nolte starring).
  • The Thing (1982) is constantly looked at as one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time. Its prequel, The Thing (2011), could never hope to live up to this. Sad really.
  • Since The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has been trying to replicate his success with low-key supernatural horror and the Twist Ending. So far, each film has had a progressively worse critical reception overall, to the point that now Shyamalan's name attached to any project seems to be a kiss of death.
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is often derided for not being as good as the fan favorite The Empire Strikes Back (which in turn had to struggle against the fame of A New Hope). The prequels get enormous amounts of hate simply over being not as good as the original trilogy.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fell flat in part due to comparisons to the original trilogy.
  • Orson Welles never had a prayer of producing another film that would live up to the reputation Citizen Kane enjoyed, although this is partly because he was never again allowed the degree of creative control he had with Kane. A later Welles film, Touch of Evil, is nowadays regarded by critics as a great artistic work, though it's nowhere near as well known to the public at large as Kane is. The Magnificent Ambersons is regarded as almost as good, but the "almost" wasn't Welles' fault; it was RKO's for destroying the original ending and tacking on a new one.
  • Pulp Fiction:
    • Most of Quentin Tarantino's films have been financial and critical successes, but none of them will probably ever top his first major release, Pulp Fiction, at least in terms of mainstream reinvention of the medium. In fact, Pulp Fiction's direct follow-up, Jackie Brown, is widely considered to be Tarantino's weakest film (rivaled only by Death Proof) simply because it had the most to live up to.
    • Despite the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is one of the most popular Hollywood actors, people agree that his star-making turn as Jules Winnfield is still easily his greatest performance. Since then, Jackson hasn't landed an Oscar nomination and is more known as a blockbuster actor than an Oscar darling.
  • Tobe Hooper never was able to replicate the success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as well as his subsequent films. The closest he ever came was probably Poltergeist, but the involvement of executive producer Steven Spielberg overshadowed Hooper's work.
  • Austrian actress Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Oscar twice in a row in 1937 and 1938, (a feat repeated only by Katharine Hepburn). She once said about her awards that nothing worse could have happened to her, as audience expectations from then on would be too high to fulfill. Her career waned at the end of the 1930s, and she retired in 1943.
  • Donald Cammell spent his career trying to make another film as well-received as his debut, Performance (co-directed by Nicolas Roeg). He eventually committed suicide after dealing with Executive Meddling one too many times.
  • Christopher Nolan had expressed anxiety over the prospects of the third film in the The Dark Knight Saga, noting that after the massive accolades The Dark Knight received it would be difficult to write a satisfying follow-up, and pointing out "how many good third parts in a franchise can you think of?" And of course, some Critical Backlash occurred for The Dark Knight Rises, given how high the stakes were set by its predecessor. There's also the fact that Nolan's last film would be a tough act to follow up on as well.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had it all: an edge-of-your-seat plot, tremendous music, fantastic (for its time) visual effects, literary references galore, a true Tear Jerker ending, and great timeless themes interspersed throughout. With every new movie since, they've been trying to measure up to that - and frequently fell short. Although the 2009 reboot ended up dethroning II as the best-reviewed Trek film on Rotten Tomatoes. For many people, the same has been true of Star Trek Into Darkness when compared to the 2009 film.
  • Canadian filmmaker Michael McGowan built credit on the performance of his films Saint Ralph and One Week. Soon after, he was given the freedom to pursue a passion project - a comedy-musical about a homegrown hockey player who makes it to the big leagues. The resulting film, Score: A Hockey Musical, featured a who's who of Canadian singers and character actors, backing from Canadian production houses/government funding and a selection of up-and-coming Canadian talent. Unfortunately, the film flopped (making just $200,000 on a $5.3 million budget), was thoroughly trashed by Canadian critics and audiences (even those who liked the concept of a hockey-themed musical), and put a damper on McGowan's career just as it started.
  • John Singleton's directorial debut Boyz n the Hood was critically acclaimed, and made him the youngest Academy Award nominee for Best Director at the age of 24. Twenty years later, it's still regarded his best work.
  • This is definitely one interpretation of The Godfather Part III. When you're making a sequel to two films that are almost universally regarded as absolute masterpieces, whatever you make is highly likely to not live up to its predecessors, even if it's a good film in its own right, which a lot of people regard Part III as. Most people also put the 16-year gap between the second and third films and the fact that another Mafia movie released the same year would become a masterpiece on par with the first two Godfathers as part of the reason the film came off as disappointing.
  • Hans Zimmer had really, really big shoes to fill as the composer for Man of Steel, because the theme of Superman: The Movie is one of the greatest movie themes of all time and is undeniably the theme of the Superman franchise. In fact, Zimmer initially stated that he wasn't scoring Man of Steel for this reason, but it was confirmed later that he was scoring MoS. Any actor playing the Man of Steel will be measured against Christopher Reeve, a truly daunting high standard of acting excellence and sincere charm.
  • Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat, didn't get anywhere near as positive a reaction as Borat at the box office. While it opened as big, its second weekend fell a staggering amount (nearly 75%) to a single-digit-million-take after pulling north of $30 million the week before.
  • Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fight Club, and Animal House tough acts to follow in their respective genres.
  • GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan's debut as James Bond, simply was so phenomenal that his subsequent movies could not live up to its high standards. Then again, GoldenEye was the film that revived the franchise after years of Development Hell.
    • Many of the Bond films have gone through this, starting all the way back with Goldfinger, the Codifier for all future Bond films. It was followed by Thunderball, which, while well-received, failed to have the staying power of its predecessor. This is also true of Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker, Octopussy, and Quantum of Solace, and currently seems to be the case with Spectre. Reviews are mixed, unlike the nearly unanimous praise for its predecessor Skyfall, and even the positive reviews are forced to admit that it isn't as good as the previous film.
  • Peter O'Toole holds the record for being nominated the most times (8) for an Academy Award without winning. A contribution to this is without a doubt that his first nomination was for Lawrence of Arabia, his most iconic role, where he lost to Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird (see further below) as Atticus Finch (his most iconic role). It was simply the case of one being the veteran and the other never having done a film before. While he has been a great actor, Lawrence is of course what he will be remembered as.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man 3 hasn't gotten as overwhelmingly positive a critical reception as Iron Man's previous cinematic endeavor, the crossover The Avengers. However, it received much better reviews than Iron Man 2, and was the highest grossing film in the Iron Man series, as well as the third highest grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron ultimately became a victim of this. Not only did it have to live up to The Avengers, it also had to follow the massive dual-success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Ultimately, many fans just felt underwhelmed by Age of Ultron.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a double whammy of tough acts. As a film devoted to setting up the DC Extended Universe, it followed in the footsteps of the mega-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, which popularized the concept of a shared cinematic universe for Western audiences. As the first film in this new universe featuring Batman, it also followed in the footsteps of The Dark Knight Trilogy, considered by many to be one of (if not the) greatest superhero movie series (especially with its second installment) of all time. Critics were not kind, and though it still managed to gross over 800 million, it fell short of the studio's hopes for an Avengers-level hit, and failed to match the box office grosses of either of the two previous Batman movies.
  • Suicide Squad:
    • Before the movie was even released, Jared Leto's Joker was already facing comparisons to Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson's prior portrayals of the character. When the film was released, Leto's performance was met with a decidedly mixed response, and it was Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn who became the breakout character instead.
    • While the film already had a lot of problems, some critics wondered if it may have gotten better reviews had the monster hit Deadpool (another "edgy" comic book movie starring a violent Anti-Hero) not been released earlier the same year.
  • Paper Moon was this for director Peter Bogdanovich. His next three films were critical and commercial failures. No other film he made after was nearly as successful until Mask, which was released 12 years later, and he hasn't had another one since. Today, not even Paper Moon itself is well-remembered (aside from the fact that Tatum O'Neal became the youngest person to ever win an Oscar with her role in the film.) That being said, The Last Picture Show is still his most acclaimed and best-remembered film by far.
  • Given that Neill Blomkamp's debut film was District 9, this reaction was kind of inevitable, unfortunately. While many praise Elysium for its effects and Sharlto Copley's performance as Kruger, quite a few thought that the social commentary and the overall character development paled in comparison to Blomkamp's debut film.
  • The second movie Mel Brooks directed, an adaptation of The Twelve Chairs starring Ron Moody, Frank Langella, and Dom DeLuise, hasn't left nearly as strong an impact on pop culture as The Producers has. Fans could make a similar comparison between Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie, although at least they both made more money than The Twelve Chairs did.
  • Kevin Smith followed up Clerks, a Generation X comedy masterpiece, with Mallrats. While it's since been Vindicated by History and recognized as a pretty entertaining film in its own right, Mallrats was initially seen as a Sophomore Slump for Smith, subject to a lot of unfair comparisons to Clerks, to the point where Smith gave a mock-apology for it at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards. It didn't help that, at the time, it was a Box Office Bomb that nearly bankrupted distributor Gramercy Pictures. He's said multiple times the film "hangs over [his] whole career."
  • While The Amazing Spider-Man Series has a good deal of fans, it does have one major case of this within itself with J.K. Simmons' iconic performance as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films. It dealt with this by turning the character into The Ghost.
  • After Behind Enemy Lines, many of John Moore's movies didn't do well with critics.
  • Paper Towns may or may not be bad, but regardless, it gets compared to The Fault in Our Stars a lot, with many complaints that Paper Towns can't quite live up to TFIOS.
  • Peter Jackson may have other big-budget hits and critically-acclaimed films, but it's doubtful that anything will ever surpass the juggernauts that was The Lord of the Rings. The films were so meticulously and carefully made, so financially successful, and so critically acclaimed by casual and geek audiences alike that nothing he has made since has been able to escape their shadow. And when he went back to the well for The Hobbit, the comparisons between the two series was seldom positive in the favor of The Hobbit.
  • Christian Bale won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2010 for his role in The Fighter. Unfortunately, it followed not one, but three all time classic villainous performances to win the Oscar — Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa, Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh, and ironically enough, given who Bale is, Heath Ledger's take on The Joker. Even with its win, the shadow of the past three victories is still glaring.
  • This is a reason why many Academy Award winning actors, particularly in the supporting categories, become victims of the Hollywood Hype Machine and retreat into obscurity and\or low-profile work seeking paychecks. Specially once the sudden fame leads to starring roles not everyone can pull off.
  • The Halloween franchise:
    • The original film was highly acclaimed when it came out by critics, audiences, and horror fans, and is now considered one of the greatest slasher movies of all time (if not the greatest), and an icon of horror cinema. The nine subsequent films in the franchise it spawned have had a very difficult time living up. A peak at their Rotten Tomatoes scores makes this all the more obvious. The original film has a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating, while the other nine are all in the "Rotten" spectrum (the closest to breaking that was Halloween H20 with a 51%; the worst is The Curse of Michael Myers with a mere 6%). While some of those films have their fans (mostly limited to the Halloween fandom), their success has always been hindered by the fact that they will always be compared to the original, which is simply an impossible standard to measure up to.
    • Halloween: Resurrection had the double-whammy of also having to live up to H20, widely considered the best sequel, and a satisfying conclusion to the original series. It's usually seen as the worst film in the entire series, not just for it's poor story, characters, and acting, but also for how it wrapped up the plotlines from H20.
    • Halloween III: Season of the Witch has a history of being a very hated film among Halloween fans, since it's completely unrelated to the main story, and does not feature Michael Myers. These days, it's slowly gaining a cult following among 80s horror fans, who feel it would've been better received were it not attached to the Halloween series.
    • The first film in Rob Zombie's rebooted series easily had this working against it, since it was a prequel/remake of the original movie, but his sequel to that film, while it has plenty of haters, was allowed to be judged more on it's own merits, since it was mostly fresh material.
  • David O Russell really hit it big time with Silver Linings Playbook, a movie that nearly everyone loved. His next release American Hustle did very well, but some Hype Backlash set in and it failed to win any of the ten Academy Awards it was nominated for. But the effects of this trope were felt with Joy, which was trashed by critics and only got Jennifer Lawrence a Best Actress nomination, before quickly vanishing from public consciousness.
  • Kimberly Peirce's Boys Don't Cry was a mega hit that turned Hilary Swank into a star overnight and was a critical darling. Her next feature - which wasn't released until eight years later - Stop Loss flopped at the Box Office and got no awards love. It was however still well-received by critics. Her third film, a remake of Carrie, made plenty of money at the Box Office but was met with So Okay, It's Average responses. Swank was affected by this for a while, but she ultimately subverted it thanks to Million Dollar Baby,.
  • Kate Hudson became a star overnight for her turn as a drugged out groupie in Almost Famous and got a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She then followed it up with a bunch of forgettable romantic comedies, which got mixed-to-negative reviews but did well at the box office, and the Hollywood Hype Machine failed to make a star out of her. Almost Famous is about the only film of hers that's remembered well today (even though it initially wasn't nearly as commercially successful as her later films), although The Skeleton Key has started to get traction as a cult favourite (and some She Really Can Act reactions from audiences at least).
  • Dito Montiel's debut film A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, based on his own memoirs, was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. His follow-ups remained below the radar and got mixed reactions.
  • The Expendables 2 was viewed as an Even Better Sequel by fans. When The Expendables 3 came out, being rated PG-13 and featuring lesser-known actors as well as MMA fighters with little to no acting experience has drawn criticism. Here's hoping the fourth movie would Win Back the Crowd.
  • Warren Beatty had a very successful career as a producer, director, and actor, with critical and commercial hits such as Bonnie and Clyde, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Dick Tracy, and Bugsy, but he's had a hard time living up to his glory days. His 1994 film Love Affair was a critical and commercial flop, and Bulworth (1998) failed to make back it's budget, despite good reviews. After Town & Country massively flopped critically and commercially (it grossed $10 million on a $90 million budget with a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes), he took some time off from show business until 2016 when he returned to writer, produce, direct, and star in Rules Don't Apply, which got a mixed critical reception, and had one of the worst openings in domestic box office history.

    Literature 
  • Ender's Game was Orson Scott Card's first novel, which received major critical accolades and has sold millions of copies. His later novels, including a number of sequels, have been successful as genre fiction, but never broke out into mainstream acceptance as Ender's Game did.
  • This trope is (probably) the reason Harper Lee took over half a century to publish anything after To Kill a Mockingbird. (She eventually published Go Set a Watchman, a book she wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird.)
  • The idea that everyone has a moment which overshadows the rest of their life becomes a major theme of the novel Foucault's Pendulum. (And some would say the work is itself an example!)
  • William Golding's first novel was Lord of the Flies. He wrote many others afterwards, but none of them matched its success.
  • The success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz haunted L. Frank Baum for the rest of his career. Although he tried to make forays into other stories, he was never very successful and ended up penniless, forced to write more Oz books. In the intro to one book he actually says that he knows many stories not about Oz, and wishes he had a chance to tell them. He used the fifth book of the series, The Road to Oz, as a sort of Massive Multiplayer Crossover by inviting characters from his other books to attend Princess Ozma's birthday party, hoping to get his Oz readers interested in those other stories. He even tried to end the series after the sixth book, The Emerald City of Oz, neatly tying up the loose ends, giving an in-universe explanation for the end of the stories, and announcing at the end that it would be the last Oz book. It didn't work, and he ended up writing eight more Oz books after that.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could never escape the popularity of his flagship series about a certain 19th century detective. Despite Doyle's attempts to move on by killing off the iconic protagonist, he later bowed to public pressure to bring him back. Also, like Frank Baum, Doyle got fed up with having to continue the series, but financial necessity and failed outside novels prevented him from branching out.
  • Frankenstein: Mary Shelley once said something to the effect that: "some people only have one really good novel in them." She would probably know a little about this trope, given that most people can only name one thing she ever wrote, even though she went on to write The Last Man, which is remembered as the first post-apocalyptic-future novel, as well as other works.
  • Peter S. Beagle unintentionally displayed the upside of this trope in an introduction to one edition of The Last Unicorn. He stated that the book would always haunt him "even as The Crock Of Gold came to haunt James Stephens." Notice that Stephens and The Crock of Gold don't have entries on the wiki — but The Last Unicorn does, and Beagle got a stub primarily because of it.
  • Watership Down was Richard Adams's first novel. He wrote several others, but none of them became nearly as successful.
  • Similarly, Joseph Heller never again came close to the success of The Great American Novel, Catch-22. Some of his later works playfully reference this. Did you know that there's a sequel?
    "When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch-22 I'm tempted to reply, 'Who has?'"
  • Chuck Palahniuk exploded onto the scene with Fight Club, which became a major success after the highly popular and influential film adaptation. While his other novels sell well, none of them have come close to the success of Fight Club. His other novels usually advertise the fact that they are written "by the author of Fight Club", and reviews typically describe his work in relation to it.
  • Walter Miller Jr. After publishing his masterpiece A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller isolated himself for 40 odd years and never published another book again, only stating in an interview that his reasons for not publishing were "not for the public to know." The posthumously published follow-up to Canticle, "Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman," is universally regarded as inferior.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski, writer of The Witcher saga, has published a few other books in his native Poland after the last volume of the series, but cannot top its popularity. In fact, his last book is hated by many for being too different from The Witcher.
  • Amy Tan admits in her memoirs that she felt a lot of this after the runaway success of The Joy Luck Club. Her eventual solution was to write many novels until she came up with one she thought could stand on its own (The Kitchen God's Wife). In the end, she thinks it's better than The Joy Luck Club.
  • Stephenie Meyer had a huge hit with the Twilight series. Her next novel, The Host sold very well and was also made into a movie, but has nowhere near the same level of hype. She has stated she has many other ideas for novels, so it remains to be seen if anything she does will come close to her first.
  • Japanese author Koushun Takami has not written another novel since Battle Royale. After the original book received much international acclaim, and a film and manga adaptation a mere year after its 1999 release, not to mention renewed international interest thanks to the latter-day popularity of the very similar Hunger Games series, it's not hard to see why.
  • Frank Stockton's "His Wife's Deceased Sister" had fun with this idea. A struggling author writes a tragic short story with the aforementioned title, which is published to universal acclaim; but to his horror finds that no one will even consider publishing any of his subsequent works, none of them being considered even half as good as HWDS. In the end he is forced to write under a false name in order to make a living at all. Stockton would be rather familiar with this situation, as he is far better recognized as the author of The Lady Or The Tiger.
  • J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, which became a cultural phenomenon and has earned over 10 billion dollars, not including book sales. She's acknowledged that nothing else she writes is remotely likely to approach that. However, she has proven herself not to be a one-hit wonder, given her non-Potter follow-ups (albeit two released under an undisguised pseudonym) have all been critically acclaimed best-sellers.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has A Storm of Swords. A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons were both well received but considered somewhat disappointing by comparison, having the dubious honors of following Swords which had so many game-changing plot developments and deaths that it was essentially a 1000+ page Wham Episode. The two that followed were essentially there to depict the aftermath of these events.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a very famous novel, but how many people have even heard of its sequel Lila, let alone have actually read it?

    Live-Action TV 
  • After the success of The Office, creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant actively parodied/dared people to invoke this trope in the lead-up and advertising for their next series Extras, which was essentially billed as "the show people are already calling 'the disappointing follow-up to The Office." Although Extras was largely praised as being just as good as their original series, comments of this nature could still nevertheless be heard from time to time.
  • On Saturday Night Live, when Norm MacDonald was fired in the midst of a mild controversy, Colin Quinn's first episode as the Weekend Update anchor acknowledged this trope essentially saying "don't shoot the new guy."
  • Doctor Who:
    • Everyone's favorite Doctor is a tough act to follow — not to name names; you know where the bases are broken.
    • Some purists also apply this trope to the Modern Era (2005 onwards) versus the Classic Era (1963-1989). Certainly in terms of longevity the bl is unlikely to equal the original, although at nine seasons (as of 2016) it has already run longer than most English-language sci-fi series.
    • Leaving aside matters of quality, personal preference or favouritism, Tom Baker cast a long shadow over many of his successors in the role and to some degree continues to do so. There are many potential factors for this, but the simplest is probably that at seven years, he's still the actor who played the part on television the longest (although many of his successors have overtaken him when it comes to Big Finish), so had longer to become cemented in more people's minds as the Doctor. He was also the star at a point when for numerous reasons the show was receiving its biggest ratings ever; at one point (episode four of "City of Death") 16 million people were watching, which remains the highest ratings an episode of Doctor Who has ever recorded. As such, his interpretation of the Doctor for better or worse became the one that much of the general public associated with the role. His unusual and distinctive style, including the distinctive 18-foot long scarf, also probably helped. And his successors have continued to be influenced by the way he portrayed the role in many different ways. Even today, the Fourth Doctor is still the one many people associate with the classic series when it's brought up and perhaps notably, Tom Baker was the only living pre-2005 Doctor to appear in person in the 50th anniversary special rather than just as part of stock footage.
    • In 1984, "The Caves of Androzani" was Peter Davison's final story as the Fifth Doctor. It was an unexpected critical success, and widely heralded as a fan favorite ever since its premiere. However, producers wanted to capitalize on the hype for the next actor who would play the Doctor, Colin Baker, by airing his first story right after Davison's last. This put him in a very unfavorable position, as he had no time for the Sixth Doctor's character to be scripted attentively, and what resulted... was for lack of a better word, a trainwreck. With a hastily written story and little time for audiences to be let down from the initial excitement of Caves, "The Twin Dilemma" hobbled onto the screen... and the reaction from audiences was not pretty, beginning the long, sad decline of the show over the remainder of the 1980s.
    • "The Day of the Doctor", the 50th anniversary special that teamed up the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, brought back much-loved Classic!Who villains the Zygons, showcased instant fan favorites the War Doctor and Osgood, and culminated in ALL 13 Doctors saving Gallifrey — among other things — was wildly acclaimed by critics and fans. A month later the Christmas Episode "The Time of the Doctor" came along; tasked with picking up where the previous story left off AND tying up Eleven's long-neglected Story Arc (the crack in time, the Silence, etc.), culminating in his regeneration into Twelve, in just one hour, it's largely regarded as underwhelming by comparison.
    • The Series 9 finale three-parter of "Face the Raven"/"Heaven Sent"/"Hell Bent", which saw the Doctor undergo a temporary transformation into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds in the wake of his companion Clara getting Killed Off For Real, was a deeply emotional, dark, tragic story with a Bittersweet Ending. It was a succession of Wham Episodes that weren't universally acclaimed but had a big impact on fans and critics for better and worse, and at least one loose end that will certainly haunt the Doctor somewhere down the line ( finally returning to Gallifrey only to become a fugitive from his people once more). Not three weeks later came the MUCH Lighter and Softer Christmas Episode "The Husbands of River Song", an almost slapstick adventure with a romantic Bittersweet Ending far more sweet than bitter compared to the Series 9 endgame. While the show hadn't had a Breather Episode since Series 8 and it was time to throw the poor Doctor a bone, the Mood Whiplash was too much for some fans and critics. Also, the previous Christmas Episode "Last Christmas" had been a big hit for being scary, poignant, funny, and conceptually ambitious — sort of the ideal of a Doctor Who story — so a straightforward Romantic Comedy was going to seem like small potatoes by comparison.
  • Chris Carter is a variant of this trope. He tried three different times to premiere new shows while his most famous show, and ultimately the only one that's remembered, The X-Files, was on the air. These shows are: Millennium, a conspiracy show in a similar vein as The X-Files minus the paranormal angle; The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off of The X-Files featuring three of its most popular supporting characters; and Harsh Realm, a critically derided effort featuring characters trapped in a virtual reality. All three featured an attempt at crafting a Myth Arc much like that of The X-Files but all three failed to catch on and lasted less than one season (with the exception of Millenium which lasted 3, with the show being retooled beyond recognition each season). Millenium and The Lone Gunmen both received Fully Absorbed Finales on The X-Files and neither is remember as fondly. Harsh Realm on the other hand is almost not remembered at all. Since The X-Files' conclusion, Carter, who was once a well-known show runner on the same level as Joss Whedon, has mostly faded into obscurity, coming out of semi-retirement to write and direct an X-Files film which was not well received and failing (or possibly not attempting) to get any other series or films off the ground as of 2011.
  • Brit comedian Tony Hancock apparently sunk into a deep depression after his famous Blood Donor sketch. Most people couldn't understand why this could be, given how brilliant the sketch had been, but it was apparently because Hancock believed he would never ever top it.
    • It didn't help that he'd been the passenger in a car involved in a road traffic accident that same week. The reminder of his mortality seems to have had a very bad effect on him, in particular it probably contributed to his decision to split from writers Galton & Simpson, which in retrospect is recognised as a bad move.
  • The Super Sentai series experienced this throughout the early and mid 90's—Choujin Sentai Jetman was so immensely popular, that nearly every season that came after it in the next 9 years was seen as a huge step down (although Gosei Sentai Dairanger has been Vindicated by History as being a spectacular season in its own right). In 2000, when Mirai Sentai Timeranger began airing, the Jetman hype had finally died down, and even the hardcore Jetman fanbase was satisfied with Timerangers drama and story rivaling Jetman's.
    • General consensus was that Zyuranger and to a lesser extent Kakuranger were the only ones affected. Dairanger was an awesome series in its own right, and the other series were no slouches either (except for Ohranger, but it was because of other factors).
    • Played straight, however, by Tensou Sentai Goseiger, coming immediately after the dripping-with-awesome Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. It doesn't help matters that Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger came after it. Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters got exactly the same position, coming right off of the immense success that was Gokaiger. And if that wasn't enough, Shinkenger and Go-Busters were both written by Yasuko Kobayashi, and the latter show kept being compared to her earlier work.
  • There's the infamous "Seinfeld Curse" that allegedly prevents any of Seinfeld's four main cast members from achieving future success:
    • Jason Alexander had two failed sitcoms, Listen Up and Bob Patterson. He's consistently found supporting work in various movies and TV shows but is always seen as George Costanza, a fact he disdains so much that as of 2011 he started wearing a hairpiece to open up his acting opportunities.
    • A bigger victim is Michael Richards (Kramer), who basically retired from acting after The Michael Richards Show failed to catch on in 2000 because the main character was turned into a cheap Kramer clone thanks to Executive Meddling and Richards almost completely destroyed his reputation in 2006 when he hurled racial slurs at a heckler during his stand-up act. In the 12 years since The Michael Richards Show Richards has only returned to acting for a voice part in the Jerry Seinfeld written Bee Movie and an appearance as himself on co-creator Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
    • With Julia Louis-Dreyfus having won a total of 4 Emmys in the 15+ years since Seinfeld's conclusion on 2 different shows that have each lasted for multiple seasons (not to mention headlining Nicole Holofcener's well-received film Enough Said opposite James Gandolfini), it's agreed upon that Julia more than shattered the curse.
    • Jerry Seinfeld himself largely sidestepped this, returning to stand-up and only doing the occasional one-off voice acting job.
    • Co-creator Larry David subverted this when his film Sour Grapes bombed critically and commercially but his second series Curb Your Enthusiasm became a hit in its own right.
  • A similar fate has affected the actors of Friends after the show ended:
    • The female actors have got it good: Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox have to this day successful careers on Hollywood and TV respectively, with Lisa Kudrow having more limited success.
    • Of the male actors, only David Schwimmer had any success for more than ten years following the series finale (and that for voicing a talking giraffe), Matthew Perry had a string of failed shows (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On), and Matt LeBlanc pretty much retired from acting after the spin-off Joey (mainly to concentrate on his daughter).
    • This was until LeBlanc got a hit with Episodes, in which he was thrice nominated for an Emmy award. Later on Perry and Schwimmer got hits of their own (the 2015 version of The Odd Couple and American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson respectively).
  • Keeping with the Sentai trend, Power Rangers:
    • Power Rangers Samurai isn't without its faults, but the series would have likely been better received had it not been adapted from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (a very well-received Sentai) and following Power Rangers RPM (considered one of—if not the—best season that Power Rangers has ever done). Similar things could be said about Wild Force coming behind Time Force and Turbo never stood a chance after Zeo.
      • On the subject of Wild Force, though the season's overall quality is debated, it is commonly agreed to have two of the best team-up episodes in series history, "Reinforcements from the Future" and "Forever Red." Few, if any, of the subsequent Ranger team-ups, have been able to match them.
    • To varying extents, this could be said of every series set after Power Rangers in Space, which not only managed to Win Back the Crowd after Turbo's lukewarm reception, but was the Grand Finale of a Story Arc starting with the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. (In Space was originally going to be the last Rangers season, so it needed to end with a bang.) As all subsequent seasons are (mostly) self-contained, standalone works with only about 30 episodes to develop character and whatnot, they tend to fall short of a saga that had a six season buildup and was more or less at the apex of the Cerebus Rollercoaster by its end. It should be noted that Lost Galaxy, in Space's immediate successor, gets less of this reaction partially because of its holdovers from the Zordon Era note , though its darker tone and famous decision to kill off the Pink Ranger during the two-part PRiS crossover also played a role.
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show enjoyed reverence, and ended partly because Oprah felt that she couldn't top herself. However, Oprah's television network is struggling.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation managed to step out of the shadow of the original show and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine managed to grow its own beard about the time TNG concluded. Voyager and Enterprise are overshadowed by comparison, especially for trying to use the original formula after much of the fandom had jumped ship for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's heavier and more intricate arc-based storytelling.
    Darren Mooney: It could legitimately be argued that the Berman era was haunted by the spectre of 1994 for the longest of times...While Deep Space Nine would end up an evolutionary dead-end for the franchise, the seven seasons of Voyager and the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise would find the franchise trapped within a phantom version of 1994 that seemed to last forever.
  • The Prisoner (1967): Actor Patrick McGoohan actually left the UK shortly after the controversial final episode aired and settled in the US, and his only television series since then (Rafferty) has been long forgotten except by die-hard cult fans. He did have some sporadic success in the US, notably when working with Peter Falk on some Emmy-winning episodes of Columbo but The Prisoner completely overshadows all his other work. (Indeed, one of his Columbo episodes was essentially a riff on The Prisoner, and a film he starred in called Kings and Desperate Men not only was directed by and co-starred one of his Prisoner actors, but it revisited many of the earlier show's themes.)
  • James Gandolfini worked pretty consistently after completing The Sopranos, taking several parts before his death in 2013 that helped subvert his mobster persona, such as the General in In the Loop, Leon Panetta in Zero Dark Thirty, a grieving husband and father in Welcome to the Rileys, and a Gentle Giant love interest to Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said. That said, none of his roles matched up to the public ubiquity of Tony Soprano in popular culture.
  • The Shield writer Shawn Ryan's career has staggered (his follow-up shows The Chicago Code and Terriers and his time working as show-runner of Lie To Me were largely ignored by most).
  • Dan Schneider has made some of Nickelodeon's most well-known and popular successes, like Drake & Josh, Zoey 101 and iCarly. His 2010 creation, Victorious, on the other hand, has been panned by quite a few fans of the former works (especially iCarly considering the shows ran alongside each other for a while) for not being what they were. The fact that the show was constantly promoted by the iCarly cast doesn't help either (because non-fans of Victorious found that infuriating). While most fans of Dan's past works liked it, even part of those fans felt that the second season was significantly lower quality than the first, but the third season rattled the line between being better than ever and even worse. The show ultimately met its untimely end after the third season's filming. The show did win Favorite TV Show at the 2013 Kids Choice Awards, however, which was the second year in running, so it didn't end on a completely bad note.
  • Sam & Cat, which is what Victorious was reportedly canned for, has been received worse than the former. It did win at the 2014 Kids' Choice Awards which made sense being it was the only Nick show nominated (compared to the Victorious/iCarly wars of years' past), and was riding on Ariana Grande's huge popularity, so its win was justified.
  • The Wire is regarded by many TV critics as one of, if not the, best television show ever made. David Simon's follow-up, Treme has been chugging along in relative obscurity, which is admittedly what The Wire did for most of its run as well. Within the run of the series itself, there are many who cite the fourth season as one of, if not THE greatest season in all of television. By contrast, quite a number of fans and critics complained that the fifth (and final) season was hindered by Simon hanging his dirty laundry out to dry (particularly regarding its criticism of journalism, which echoed Simon's real life feelings on the Baltimore Sun). Luckily, those critics still cite the series finale as among the greatest episodes the show had done, so the show was still able to finish on a high note.
  • David Milch hit big with Deadwood, which achieved a lot of cultural saturation in spite of not being a ratings powerhouse. Neither of Milch's follow-up series, John from Cincinnati and Luck, made it to a second season.
  • The fifth season of 24 was universally acclaimed and managed to net the series the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama. Season six however, suffered from poor writing and is easily regarded as one of the worst of the show, with the , with the biggest problem coming from the writers trying to find a way to top season five's shocks early on, only to run out of steam immediately after that. Seasons 7 and/or 8, depending on who you ask, either improved the series after the sixth season slump or marked when the show officially Jumped the Shark, but its clear that both of them wound up living in the fifth season's shadow as well.
  • With Breaking Bad already going down as one of the greatest series in television history, with many critics even going so far as to call it the modern Shakespearean tragedy, and having ended in a blaze of glory, both critically and commercially, this trope can be applied in countless ways regarding the show:
    • Its creator, Vince Gilligan, has already resigned himself to the fact that he will likely NEVER hit the same level again. Since then, he's made two new series, Better Call Saul and Battle Creek. Considering the former is a Spinoff of this series, this is a given. However, even with that over its head, the general consensus thus far is that it is great in its own right, though admittedly not as brilliant as its predecessor. The latter was based on a script that Gilligan wrote before Breaking Bad. Although the show was well-liked, most people were too skeptical to tune in to a "commercialized" product, being on network TV instead of cable. The show was cancelled after one season due to low ratings.
    • This came up within the series itself. The third to last episode of the series, "Ozymandias" is almost universally regarded as both the best episode of the series and one of the best episodes ever aired on television. The two final episodes of the series are widely regarded as superb in their own right and an excellent ending to the series, but many feel that they suffered a little, for no other reason than being forced to follow the universal praise for "Ozymandias".
    • This also applies to its actors as well, most notably Bryan Cranston. After an appearance in Godzilla, he went back to drama. His 2015 film Trumbo got good but not great reviews, if solely because of Walter White's shadow looming above him.
  • It was unlikely The Thin Blue Line was ever going to be better than Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson's previous work on Blackadder. The last series of the latter, with its widely praised Drama Bomb Finale, saw the series reach a high point and a fitting conclusion. This is thought to be why the writers ended it there.
  • Joe Absolom, who played Matthew Rose in EastEnders, quit the show in late 1999 in order to avert both this trope and Arc Fatigue. At the time, Matthew was embroiled in a storyline in which Steve Owen was trying (ultimately successfully) to frame him for the murder of Saskia Duncan, which Steve had committed in self-defence and which Matthew had tried to help him cover up. Absolom didn't want the storyline to drag on for too long, and didn't think it could be bettered once it did end, so he decided to quit and go out on a high note. And boy, did he ever.
  • When Bob Barker retired as host of The Price Is Right in 2007, his successor Drew Carey quickly fell under this trope — possibly because Carey was taking the reins of the longest-running daytime game show ever, despite Whose Line Is It Anyway? being the closest he ever done to a game show beforehandnote . Granted, Bob had hosted for a whopping 35 years (and had hosted Truth or Consequences for 19 years on top of that), so just about anyone would have had a tough time following Barker.
  • When the 2014 version of Cosmos was first announced, the makers cited this trope directly with regards to the 1980 original.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was such a revolutionary show that changed comedy altogether that the main cast members have consciously done more conventional comedy stuff afterwards. Many other alternative sketch comedy shows have tried to imitate Monty Python, but still pale in comparison to the anticommercial risks the Pythons took. Some comedians have even thrown ideas away because they were too Pythonesque in nature.
  • The Colbert Report:
    • The series was such a pop culture phenomenon that since it ended its run in December 2014, there has been concern over whether its successor series, The Nightly Show, another spinoff of The Daily Show premiering in January 2015, can match up to it.
    • Similar reaction was shown when Stephen Colbert succeeded David Letterman as host of The Late Show in The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in September 2015, both in relation to the Report and Letterman's gig. The Report looms so large in the minds of his fans and the public consciousness that he has to strike a delicate balance; preserving the charisma, incisive interviewing skill, and political savvy that made him a star, while moving away from the old show enough to demonstrate that this is not just "the Report 2.0" and make the needed adjustments for a rather different audience. Fortunately, he seems to be doing just fine.note 
  • The Daily Show. After it was announced that Jon Stewart would soon retire and Trevor Noah would take his place, many doubted whether Noah could fill Stewart's shoes. Indeed, the first episodes Noah did had jokes about Noah admitting just how great a task he'd taken on.
    John Oliver: ...he's taking on the impossible — you can't replace the irreplaceable, so [Noah is] doing his own thing.note 
  • Jenji Kohan, creator of Weeds, subverted this big time. Her next series was the Netflix prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black, which became much more popular than Weeds ever was with both critics and audiences. Time will tell if she falls into this trope for that series.
  • Hitfix contributors Drew McWeeny and Roth Cornet posit in this video that Game of Thrones is doing this for all of High Fantasy as a genre. The series' success at creating a fully realized, detailed world means that a lot of viewers will compare any fantasy movie they see to it. Additionally, Game of Thrones' high budget means that now budget is no longer an issue when comparing TV to film. Even though it's still on the air, many people also think that the show will also cast a shadow over the likes of HBO as a whole, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, author George R.R. Martin, and all of the actors involved.
  • Joss Whedon was gold when it came to TV series in the 90s and 2000s. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a cultural phenomenon and its spin-off Angel lasted five seasons. Firefly was prematurely cancelled due to getting Screwed by the Network and developed a strong enough fanbase to get a concluding movie released as Serenity. His next project, also on the same network that cancelled Firefly, was Dollhouse. That one was incredibly divisive and met with lukewarm reactions. Five seasons were planned but it was cancelled after only two, and there are very few fans calling for continuations or spin-offs like the former three.

    Music 
  • In 1992, Flatwoods, Kentucky native Billy Ray Cyrus hit right off the bat with "Achy Breaky Heart," the song that practically began the country line-dance craze. Despite having several more country hits and parlaying that success into several long-running TV series — "Doc" and, with daughter Miley, the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana — there are some who will never think of Billy Ray as more as that long-haired boy from the Kentucky backwoods who "got lucky with a bad dance song." (which was a Black Sheep Hit to boot). That, and being his daughter's father.
  • ?uestlove, drummer for The Roots, said this about the trope in an interview:
    "For anyone that's ever had a musical breakthrough in their career, it's always followed by the departure period right after. Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life gave you Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. Prince's Purple Rain gave you Around the World in a Day. The Beatles' Revolver gave you Sgt. Pepper's — which kind of backfired and made them even bigger."
  • Don McLean may be the biggest example, never being able to create anything close to the success of "American Pie."
    • Part of the problem was that it was a different type of song from the rest of what he did, so his other good songs were legitimately worse than American Pie by the measures of the people who preferred it, and many of the people who would have liked his other songs didn't bother listening to the further discography of "that guy who wrote American Pie."
      • Though it never reached the sales success of American Pie, his song Vincent, a heartfelt love-letter to impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, was truly a tearjerker, and has a small but loyal fanbase.
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony can't make a album without people bitching about it not being like E.1999 Eternal (or The Art Of War, depending on who you ask).
  • Nas is always in the shadow of his classic debut Illmatic. Nothing he has made after that has been as acclaimed. He came close with Stillmatic, though.
    • Some go as far to say that none of his songs top "Live at the BBQ."
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller became the best-selling album of all time in the early 1980s. An amazing feat, but perhaps the best example of a tough act to follow. Nobody, not even Michael Jackson himself, has ever managed to top the sales and the critical acclaim of this record, no matter how hard he tried.
  • Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View is their dark cloud. However, lead singer Darius Rucker went on to have a fairly sucessful career in Country Music over a decade later.
  • Alt/Rap group Arrested Development went through this after their debut album. Most credit their downfall mostly to Hype Backlash rather than a lack of good music.
  • The Beatles, as a band: there was no possible way a solo career was going to stand up to the massive success of the Beatles. None of them did poorly (You all know "Imagine", don't you?), but it's been a millstone ever since.
    Paul McCartney: "You don't follow the Beatles. Everyone who'd ever tried to in our career - even to this day - anyone who says 'We are the next Beatles' is dead."
  • Pietro Mascagni and his career after Cavalleria Rusticana (Countryside Knighthood). He was once interviewed and asked why he never made another Opera after Cavalleria Rusticana. He had a sad moment and then melancholically said "I did. I made a lot of other works. But no one seems to care."
  • One of Felix Mendelssohn's first works was the Op. 21, the overture for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and some claimed it indicated talent greater than that of Mozart. While not a failure, none of his later works ever reached the prominence of this one, composed when he was 17 years old.
    • Except for the wedding march from Op. 61, incidental music for the same play expanding on the overture he already wrote.
    • Mendelssohn had a number of other works that are also very popular and successful, including his symphonies and violin concerto, but most of these were written several years after A Midsummer Night's Dream. (And then he died young.) This tends to be common among composers; since they often produce many individual works instead of a smaller number of collections (e.g. albums) like pop musicians do, it is unlikely that two consecutive works will be considered among their best.
  • Oasis averted this with their second album (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, which sold better and as well-received by critics as their debut Definitely Maybe. The ones that followed, however, spawned successful singles but weren't in the standards of the first two.
    • Their third album, Be Here Now, not only failed to live up to the hype but also managed to kill the Britpop movement (debatable, since all their contemporaries had already done a Genre Shift or faded into obscurity by then).
  • Also a problem of Pearl Jam after the release of Ten; the albums that came after couldn't really live up much to the success of it.
    • In fact Pearl Jam were consciously aware of this, and more or less intentionally sabotaged their own career to a certain extent so they wouldn't become major rock stars. Vitalogy, their third album, was initially released on vinyl, and only released on CD and cassette two weeks later, meaning it was only available on an effectively dead format for the first several weeks of its release.
    • Vs. has become one of these on a critical level, and has built a reputation as their pivotal moment of creativity and passion. Everything afterwards is considered either a clumsily-concieved experiment or a tired retread.
  • Country music singer Cyndi Thomson stopped recording because she couldn't handle the pressure of a second album. To this day, she remains a One-Hit Wonder with "What I Really Meant to Say".
  • Carl Orff disowned everything he had written before Carmina Burana. His later works, while not entirely unknown, are largely overshadowed (and it doesn't help that some of them quote words from Carmina Burana).
  • Natalie Imbruglia and "Torn", as well as the fact unbeknownst to most it was a cover, almost everything she's done afterwards has never quite lived up to the massive success of her debut single. Outside her homeland and especially in the U.S, she's almost universally remembered as a One-Hit Wonder. It even holds a place as the most played track on Australian radio since 1990 as of May 2009, about 11 years after its release.
  • The Eagles certainly realised that Hotel California was going to be a Tough Act to Follow. Not only did their next album, The Long Run, fail to live up to that challenge, but the stress of striving to make it do so was one of the main factors in the subsequent breakup of the group.
  • Mayhem will always be remembered primarily for their debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Every subsequent album has been nowhere near as widely acclaimed.
  • Slayer knew that they couldn't follow up their 1986 album Reign in Blood with faster guitarwork, so they made a deliberate decision to slow down for 1988's South Of Heaven.
  • The Strokes. Their first album, Is This It, was released to massive critical acclaim and is often named as one of the greatest albums ever created. While all of their follow-up albums are very good, they will forever be eclipsed by it.
  • The Cars, after a successful run of singles in the late 70's and early 80's, had one of the top-selling albums of the decade with their 1984 album, Heartbeat City. The innovative video for "You Might Think," won the first MTV Video Music Award for "Best Video," and they followed that up with hits (promoted with groundbreaking videos) like "Drive" (their first Top 10 hit in the UK), "Magic," "Why Can't I Have You," the title track, and "Hello Again." A successful tour followed which brought them to Live Aid. Aside from a Greatest Hits album with the single "Tonight She Comes," they took a hiatus from 1985-1987, they released one more album, Door To Door, which largely failed to make an impact, and they were unable to fill arenas. Only one major hit was released, "You Are The Girl." They broke up amicably in 1988. Bandleader Ric Ocasek maintained a low-profile solo career, bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer, and drummer David Robinson retired. guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes largely laid low, except to form "The New Cars" with Todd Rundgren replacing Ocasek. Ocasek, Easton, Hawkes and Robinson did finally get back together in 2010, releasing Move Like This a year later - instead of drafting a new member, Easton and Hawkes alternated playing bass and Ocasek sang lead for the whole album. Of course, Move Like This didn't match the success of their earlier material, but it did meet with generally positive reviews and debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
  • Mike Oldfield has never done anything else as brilliant as his debut album Tubular Bells (which made Richard Branson very, very rich). There was certainly a radical change after Incantations and only Tubular Bells 2 (a very clever rewrite of the original) and Amarok have been anything like it.
  • George Michael and his Faith album of 1987. It didn't help to have more challenging and introspective follow-up albums, constant Take Thats at his sex symbol image in later videos, a scandal which outed him in the mid-1990's, problems with his record labels, and drug- and alcohol-related run-ins with the law over the years.
  • Even the kindest reviews of Weezer's latest material will usually have the aside: "It's not as good as The Blue Album or Pinkerton, but..."
  • Jay-Z is a weird hybrid of this trope and Broken Base. His first album Reasonable Doubt is considered a hip-hop classic. But he has since made albums that is at least five times more popular financially. But people still put Reasonable Doubt as his top record artistically, and critically, even above his second best album The Blueprint.
  • Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity isn't a terrible album by any means, but the fact that it came on the heels of Images and Words and Awake (two of the most acclaimed Progressive Metal albums ever) meant that just about everyone was disappointed by it. To a degree, every subsequent album (except for maybe Scenes from a Memory) is inevitably compared to Images and Words and Awake.
  • Natasha Bedingfield's two singles "Single" and "I Bruise Easily" underperformed, partially because they were both released after her monster hit "Unwritten," which radio stations simply refused to let die. It wasn't until "Pocketful of Sunshine" that things got back on track.
  • Delta Goodrem's Innocent Eyes is exactly this, 4.5 million copies world wide, number one at the ARIA's for 29 weeks, coupled with the Tall Poppy Syndrome when her second album came out. She may be justified in wanting a break now and again. Still Australia's princess never the less.
  • Evanescence's Fallen is still the go to record for alot of people's "teen angst" stage and was a HUGE success for the band selling 17 million world wide and top three in the Billboard charts. Sadly everything released afterwards has only been received at a temperature of lukewarm or ignored outright; the departure of primary songwriter Ben Moody is an easily pinpointable catalyst.
  • Boston's self titled album was the (then) highest selling debut album of all time with 17 million copies sold and spawned songs that are played repeatedly on any classic rock station. None of the four albums since have reached that amount of success and aren't well remembered out of some of the band's more hardcore fans.
  • In 2006, a country music band called Heartland had a number one hit with "I Loved Her First." This was quite a feat, as a.) it was the first top 40 hit ever for their label, Lofton Creek Records, and b.) they became only the second band in the history of country music to send a debut single to #1 (Diamond Rio was the first). Then the label dropped the ball massively by flip-flopping on what the second single would be. The original plan was for "Let's Get Dirty," but the label heads changed their minds and went with "Built to Last," very similar in sound to "I Loved Her First." After "Built to Last" amassed a single week at #58, they went with "Let's Get Dirty" but it went nowhere. Heartland ended up changing labels twice but still have nothing to show for it.
  • Metallica has had plenty of trouble following up Master of Puppets, especially thanks to the tragic death of Cliff Burton and introduction of Replacement Goldfish Jason Newsted, who, no matter your opinion of him, was nowhere near the musical force that Cliff was, even though the band achieved the peak of their commercial success with the self-titled "Black Album", the second with Jason on the bass.
  • Most older Mariah Carey fans will tell you that 1995 until 2000 was both her creative, commercial and critical peak. During that time period, she had 3 platinum-selling hit albums (one of which has since gone DIAMOND), a special compilation that featured every #1 hit she had up until that point (13 of them, only 8 years in to her career), and amassed 7 number one hits (which gave her a #1 for every year of the 1990s). All of her post-comeback work has been compared by the fandom to that period in her career, with the consensus being that her 2009 "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" is the closest she has ever come to returning to her late-90s peak—well, at least creatively. Critically and commercially speaking, that would have to be her 2005 comeback, "The Emancipation of Mimi," where not only did she almost break her own record that she set 10 years prior (her 1995 hit, "One Sweet Day" spent a record-breaking 16 weeks at #1 and her 2005 hit, "We Belong Together" spent 14 weeks at #1), but she also set a Billboard achievement by being the first female artist to occupy the top 2 positions on the charts (her #2 hit was "Shake It Off").
  • Sir Elton John had a critically winning period from 1970's Self-Titled Album until 1973's classic Double Album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Even when the reviews got worse (and he occasionally delivered relatively lackluster albums that still produced hits), he had a financially successful streak from 1972 to 1976, when he was the biggest-selling most popular male solo act in The '70s. His friend John Lennon was quoted in an interview as saying that Elton was biggest thing to come along since The Beatles came along. The period was also marked with Elton wearing elaborate, crazy costumes, glasses, theatrics and wardrobe, and he even reached Teen Idol status. Following his self-outing in Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, and a 10-Minute Retirement a year later, his popularity fell fast. He's been largely unable to repeat his 1970-76 success since. He's had a few career comebacks, a sobering-up in the early '90s, and an Oscar for co-writing songs for The Lion King, but nothing compared to his glam period.
  • For over 15 years, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon had no trouble following up a critically acclaimed album. The two band's albums were consistently loved and praised. Then in 2008, somehow he outdid everything he had done before with Sun Kil Moon's April and the two albums since have been showing some disappointed reactions as they aren't as dark as April. Mark shows the pressure he's under in his latest album by giving off a bit of ego.
  • This happened twice to Green Day. In 1994, their major label debut Dookie brought punk back to the mainstream and sold 14 million copies. Their followups Insomniac and Nimrod each sold into the millions, but far less than their predecessor, and they hit a low point with Warning, their most experimental release up to that point, which sold only half a million copies. Then came American Idiot, widely considered their masterpiece—a rock opera that incorporated a drastically new arena rock sound influenced by The Who and Queen and became one of the epochal albums of the first decade of the 2000s, selling over 15 million copies and later becoming a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Their next effort, another Concept Album entitled 21st Century Breakdown, took them five years to record, and while it was their best-charting release to date, it sold only 5 million copies (though this could be because of a huge increase in music piracy since American Idiot 's release in 2004). When they released their Uno! Dos! Trè! trilogy, fans would never let them hear the end of it about how they had gone "mainstream" with their sound, which is noticeably upbeat and even poppy compared to the rest of their discography. Commercial-wise, the trilogy only sold 266,000 copies altogether in their first week.
  • Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars a tough act to follow in glam rock and two Bob Marley albums, Exodus and Legend tough acts to follow in reggae.
  • Pink Floyd admitted that they struggled with this trope when trying to come up with a new album after The Dark Side of the Moon.
  • In November 2012, Kevin Shields announced a follow-up to Loveless. That is, the album which completely defined the entire Shoegazing movement and effectively destroyed the genre in 1991.
  • Played straight (maybe unwillingly) by swedish prog act Pain of Salvation. 2000's The Perfect Element. Part I was just Exactly What It Says on the Tin according to fans and critics, and it's their most regarded album to date. Then came 2007's Scarsick. Even though Daniel Gildenlow claimed to be "part II of The Perfect Element", the majority of their fanbase and critics tend to disregard it as such. Scarsick is not a bad album in and out of itself (for the genre it's classified under, mind you), but one would think if you make a sequel to a work, you would at least try to make it in the same vein and style of the previous album.
  • Averted frequently by Porcupine Tree. All along the road this band has switched genres (with the same frequency as Jennifer Lopez goes from one boyfriend to another, but I digress), yet they're somehow able to make at least one outstanding album for each period the band has been into. The Sky Moves Sideways was considered their first masterpiece in the "Pink Floyd/King Crimson-esque" British prog rock approach, until Signify appeared in 1996. Enter 1999 and Stupid Dream, their most acclaimed album when it comes to "alternative pop/rock". 2002 delivered us In Absentia, not only their most popular and well regarded work in their "Progressive Metal" period, but in their entire discography. And their albums Fear of a Blank Planet and The Incident (not exactly best-sellers, but definitive cult albums in the countries where they're the most popular, such as Netherlands and Mexico) are solid evidence that this band isn't afraid to keep experimenting while going back and forth their musical roots all the way. Their quality has been so consistent throughout the years, a lot of people consider the band itself to be the Tough Act to Follow from within the British progressive rock scene, more than them releasing an album as good as the previous one.
    • Band leader Steven Wilson is a well-known perfectionist and a full-time music person, so it comes as no surprise this is the key for their constant success. Most of Porcupine Tree's albums take from 2 to 4 years of completion, in order for the transitions between the songs and the overall music to sound cohesive and coherent, yet feel fresh; something hard to achieve in a genre so musically nitpicky and technically-sided as progressive rock is (the fact all members of the band are involved in a ton of other side and solo projects doesn't help them meet their deadlines either).
  • In his song Till I Collapse, rapper Eminem remarks as to how people think that he would never top ''My Name Is''. Of course he was more than happy to prove them wrong.
  • Producer first and rapper second, Dr Dre found this out the hard way with his second album The Aftermath. His second effort was ripped apart by both the critics and the fans. Unlike his first album, The Chronic, which was considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time and helped pushed the genre into the mainstream.
  • Live managed to live up to the expectations laid by their Cult Classic Mental Jewelry with their multi-platinum breakout Throwing Copper, featuring a rich arrangement of well-written and creatively crafted gems. Every album since then has been considered either a crushing disappointment or outright non-existent.
  • Faith No More ended up with two of these: The Real Thing on a commercial level and Angel Dust on a creative level. It didn't help that Jim Martin, the guitarist who played on both albums, was jettisoned from the group. The band pressed on trying to carve a niche for themselves with King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime, but when it came time to record Album of the Year it became apparent to the band that their songwriting was sliding into irrelevance, and became a major factor in their 1998 breakup. Mike Patton himself said in an interview, "We started making bad music." Most fans agree that Angel Dust is a level of artistic achievement that can never again be replicated.
  • The difficulty of topping Crimson is generally considered to be the main reason Progressive Death Metal group Edge of Sanity broke up.
  • Avicii's "Wake Me Up!" was one of the biggest hits of 2013. Not only was it the biggest EDM radio hit in American history, but was also notable for an uncharacteristically slow decline down the charts. His next single, "Hey Brother," struggled to rise up the charts as radio stations were reluctant to move on to the new song. Simultaneously, vocalist Aloe Blacc released "The Man," which took off thanks to its placement in a Beats ad. The song also got the cold shoulder from radio executives. Once both songs peaked around April-May, radio stations dropped them faster than a hot potato and went straight back to playing "Wake Me Up!" Neither artist has hit the U.S. Top 40 since.
  • The critical and commercial success of Talking Heads (and to an extent, David Byrne and Brian Eno's side project My Life in the Bush of Ghosts) has been both a blessing and a curse to David Byrne's solo career since the Heads broke up. On the one hand, those past albums gave Byrne the Auteur License to record whatever the heck he feels like. On the other hand, it seems none of his solo stuff will ever be as popular as the Heads were. Byrne could put out an album that cured cancer in everyone who heard it, and people would still bug him about reuniting Talking Heads.
  • Bon Jovi found this with their New Jersey album, which followed the phenomenal success of Slippery When Wet, which sold 28 million copies worldwide (12 million in the U.S.). They needn't have worried—after a relatively slow start, it went on to sell a very solid 7 million copies in the U.S. and 18 million worldwide. However, they were never able to match Slippery's success.
  • Both Simon Cowell and Olly Murs have stated that The X Factor will never again create an act as globally successful as One Direction.
  • 5 Seconds of Summer, a former 1D opening act, haven't had an easy time filling the void their predecessors left behind and replicating their successes, in part due to 1D not fading away nearly as fast as expected. Then again, most people assumed that recreating Bieber Fever was borderline impossible for 1D; they did so with ease. In the end, not only did 5SOS completely fail to replicate 1D's success (although they've done far better than any other 2010s boy band), but 1D stayed much more popular than them throughout their entire run. The final nail in the coffin came in 2016, when 1D were nominated for their fourth consecutive Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Music Group despite being on hiatus whereas 5SOS, who were still active and coming off of a "best new artist" nomination the year before, weren't honored anywhere outside their native Australia.
  • DJ Shadow's first album, Endtroducing....., received mass critical acclaim for its unique sample-centric sound, being recognized as one of the nineties' greatest musical efforts. Unfortunately, every future album he released would be crushed under outcries of They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
  • ABC's debut The Lexicon of Love was such an amazing Synth Pop/New Wave album with so many iconic songs the band have never really been able to follow it with anything like the same success (though Alphabet City came close).
  • T.I. had this happen to him. He's credited for being one of the biggest names in southern hip-hop, and helped bring Atlanta to the mainstream. This all culminated with Paper Trail. It went triple platinum in the US and produced three pop crossover hits — "Whatever You Like", "Live Your Life", and "Dead and Gone", as well as massive urban hits such as "Swagger Like Us". Since then, his albums have sold far fewer copies and the success of his songs are primarily limited to urban radio. This isn't really helped by his multiple run-ins with the law.
  • While Bruno Mars certainly won't have any problems finding success following his hit collaboration with Mark Ronson, "Uptown Funk!", it's doubtful that he ever has a song come anywhere close to its popularity again. However, it will almost certainly be played straight for Ronson himself, as he was almost completely unknown outside his native U.K. prior to the hit. Signs of the inevitable were already showing as its parent album Uptown Special bombed spectacularly outside the U.K. and none of its other songs have charted at all even in his home country. Not helping the fact was that it was almost universally seen as Mars' song in the public eye (despite the fact that Ronson was billed as the lead artist and Mars the guest). It's saying something when Ronson's only major appearance on an international singles chart since was a small cameo on an A$AP Rocky song that charted for a single week.
  • Wiz Khalifa won't have any problems finding success after his megahit "See You Again", his tribute to Paul Walker, however it's unlikely that he'll ever score a hit nearly as big, or have another big crossover as the lead (especially since it sounds nothing like his normal material). His collaborator Charlie Puth, who was almost completely unknown prior to the song, also got hit with this trope, although not as hard as expected. His next three singles, "Marvin Gaye" (a #21 duet with Meghan Trainor), the #12 "One Call Away", and the Top 10 "We Don't Talk Anymore", were all big enough hits to make his debut Nine Track Mind go gold, but nothing that came close; in fact, it's safe to say Puth's post-"See You Again" career has been more successful than Khalifa's (despite the latter having been known a long time beforehand). Also, it's unlikely there will be another soundtrack album that will be as popular as the Furious 7 Soundtrack, or another hit song produced from the franchise.
  • Iggy Azalea was hit pretty hard with this trope fast. After exploding on the scene in 2014 with "Fancy" and "Black Widow", which featured her Signature Style of EDM-pop-rap songs featuring female pop singers with music videos that homage chick flicks. She repeated this exact formula with "Beg for It"note , "Trouble", and "Pretty Girls" — with less-than-stellar results. This, combined with a wide variety of other things, got everyone burnt out on her after a year and turned her into a cultural pariah.
  • Papa Roach had this happen to them twice. The first was 2000's Infest, which went triple platinum and produced their signature "Last Resort", becoming a hallmark of the Nu Metal era. Then their second album, 2002's Lovehatetragedy only barely reached gold status, and its lead single "She Loves Me Not" quickly faded out of public consciousness. After that, they changed their sound to an Alternative Metal leaning towards Hard Rock style, and saw more success with 2004's Getting Away With Murder. The Title Track dominated rock radio upon its release, but even better, the single "Scars" became their first Top 40 hit, and it went all the way to #15. The album went platinum and they successfully transitioned to fit the new sound of the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, it would also be their only hit, and all albums afterwards failed to even reach gold, with airplay limited to mainstream rock radio.
  • Imagine Dragons was hit pretty hard with this trope after Night Visions. The album produced three massive crossover singles with "It's Time", "Radioactive", and "Demons" and their album went double platinum in the US alone. This level of success was almost unheard of for a rock band in The New Tens. Naturally, it wouldn't be an easy follow-up, with Smoke + Mirrors not being nearly as successful. While it was their first #1 hit on the albums chart, it took what felt like forever to reach gold and still hasn't gone platinum. Its lead single "I Bet My Life" only barely scraped the Top 40 and its airplay was primarily limited to alternative and hot adult contemporary radio, while further singles were played exclusively on the alternative format. It's not that it wasn't good, it's just that it couldn't live up to the massive success of their debut.
  • Tears for Fears' first album, The Hurting, was a decent enough success that spawned a couple of hit singles in "Pale Shelter" and "Mad World," the latter of which was even Covered Up for the Donnie Darko soundtrack. But TFF's follow up album, Songs From the Big Chair, released around 1985, was a massive success, spawning 3 Top 40 hits that still get a lot of radio airplay to this day. Nothing the band has released since has even come close to that level of success.

    Newspaper Comic 
  • Calvin and Hobbes managed to be this for its entire medium. Ever since it ended in 1995, there have been dozens of comic strips released with varying degrees of reception, but not a single newspaper comic (or ever web comic) has been as beloved or made as much of a mark as Calvin and Hobbes.

    Pinballs 
  • Most of Pat Lawlor's pins after The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone are unfairly dismissed by players just because they fail (or are perceived to fail) to live up to the lofty standards set by those two blockbusters.
  • Popeye Saves the Earth just happened to come after big successes in pinball like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Demolition Man. Though far from the best game ever made, it was critically ravaged like it was the worst. This affected the manufacturer quite heavily, as this string of successes prompted arcade operators to pre-order pinball machines in large quantities sight unseen, confident that whatever was released next would be just as good. However, the weak early response to Popeye Saves the Earth by players terrified these operators, knowing they had paid a lot of money for Popeye Saves the Earth without the ability to return them. Some arcade game historians say that Popeye Saves the Earth falling below expectations scared enough operators from buying pinball that it was a direct cause of the industry's near total collapse a few years later.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This typically happens on a PPV when the best match of the night isn't the main event. Shawn Michaels was particularly guilty of this throughout his career, hence his nickname "The Show Stealer".
    • King of the Ring 1998: The infamous Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind. This match is so damn iconic that most people don't even remember that this wasn't the main event of that PPV, which was "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs Kane in a First Blood match, nor the titular tournament that took place that night, which was won by Ken Shamrock.
    • WrestleMania X8: The Rock vs Hulk Hogan. This is a weird case in that though it headlined the PPV, it wasn't the main event because it didn't go last like it was supposed to. Instead, Triple H lobbied for the world title match to go on last. Coincidentally, Hunter happened to be the challenger thanks to winning the Royal Rumble earlier that year after he returned from his first quad injury. It would be years before he would admit that he was wrong.
    • WrestleMania XXV: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker. They showed up everybody, and the crowd was effectively dead for the rest of the night. Understandably, their rematch next year was made the main event (aided by the fact that it was HBK's retirement match).
    • Money in the Bank 2011: CM Punk vs John Cena. This match got a five star rating from Dave Meltzer — the last time the WWE managed that was the first Hell in a Cell match between HBK and the Undertaker (which was also Kane's debut). While every match Punk and Cen had together afterwards easily clocked at four stars and above, it's kinda hard to match this one for a variety of reasons, mainly being the atmosphere just isn't as charged as it was as Chicago, and the stakes just weren't as high, lowering the drama factor. It's not helped that this is considered to be one of the best matches the WWE has put on in years (with some even going on to say that it's the best match in WWE history).
    • WrestleMania XXVIII: Triple H vs The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. In a 'Mania headlined by The Rock vs John Cena, this is the match that everyone thinks about.
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn: Bayley vs Sasha Banks. The fact that it was a Divas match of all things made it more surprising, but afterwards many consider it to be the greatest women's match in WWE history (despite the fact that it was on a developmental brand), and one of the matches of the year. In fact, the biggest, glaring flaw that everyone saw in the Finn Bálor vs Kevin Owens ladder match, a sure show stealer on any other card, was the fact that it had to follow this one, and that match was relegated to a footnote. It was so good that their rematch got to headline the next special, making history in the process.
    • WrestleMania 29: CM Punk vs The Undertaker. Granted, this one is debatable seeing as not only was it the best match, many believe it was the only good match on the card (besides the always decent Daniel Bryan match).
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas: Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Expectations were already high enough considering the resumes both had, and this was Nakamura's debut match and Zayn's last NXT match, but then both men proceeded to blow those expectations out of the water. An instant classic, this match is nigh-universally considered the best match in all of 2016's WrestleMania weekend and one of the forerunners for match of the year. Even the highly anticipated Asuka vs Bayley match for the NXT Women's Championship wasn't able to live up to it, nor was the rematch for the NXT Championship between Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor, and both, under normal circumstances, would've been sure fire contenders for match of the night.
    • Battleground 2016: Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens. Great spots, perfect storytelling, and an emotional ending, it was the perfect match to cap off their rivalry (for now). What makes this even better is that this show had The Shield Triple Threat for the WWE Championship on it, and that was an amazing match as well. The fact that Zayn and KO managed to steal the show from one of the most anticipated matches in WWE history is nothing short of astounding.
    • WWE Roadblock: Dean Ambrose vs Triple H. Though it was mainly this in regards to Roman Reigns vs Triple H at WrestleMania 32. It was absolutely no secret that most fans wanted Ambrose in the main event that year. While the company wasn't willing to relent on Reigns, they gave a title match to Ambrose at a WWE Network special as compensation, while Reigns was out for his deviated septum. The match Ambrose had with Hunter ended up being the main forerunner for Match of the Year until Nakamura/Zayn happened at Dallas. Ultimately, the match Reigns and Hunter had wasn't able to live up to it.
  • WCW in regards to TNA. TNA was originally created to fill the void that WCW left — the problem was that the times had changed and a lot of the stuff that made WCW so big were either regarded as passé or had their flaws magnified by TNA's attempts to rehash it. Then they started emulating the stuff that killed WCW during its disastrous final years (not-so-coincidentally, this was when Vince Russo returned to the booking team), and somehow made WCW look better in comparison.
  • The NXT women's division as a whole pulled this on the main roster women from the 2014-2015 period. NXT started giving the women time to wrestle, feuds that had meaning, fans were into them and the matches were usually hits. The match that really put NXT's women on the map - Charlotte vs Natalya at Takeover - was followed by a series of lacklustre matches in the feud between AJ Lee and Paige. General consensus was that the main roster women's matches were okay, but had no chance of overshadowing NXT. The 2014 TLC PPV was the worst offender, taking place only five days after an NXT special.

    Sports 
  • Any team that was led to success by a standout athlete has trouble after he goes away - best example being the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls.
    • Or the Denver Broncos without John Elway. It's actually eerie how similar those two turned out: Jordan was universally regarded as basketball's greatest player, while Elway was a top class quarterback. Both retired in 1999 after winning championships, and neither team has truly recovered. (Of course, Jordan came back with another team, but we prefer to not think about that)
    • Another would be the 49ers without Jerry Rice or Joe Montana, as well as the Dolphins without Dan Marino, and the Bills without Jim Kelly.
      • In some ways this can be subverted, for instance Kobe Bryant is just as beloved as Magic Johnson. How? Because he has a completely different playing style and personality. Same for Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Of course, they all have championship rings too, which helps.
    • In Formula One, Ferrari after Michael Schumacher. Or any other team.
      • Schumacher's career after he returned to the sport after retirement. The most race wins in Formula One history, most driver championships and all around legendary. Naturally it would be impossible for him to live up to his own record since he hadn't raced in F1 for a number of years and he wasn't in a team as good as Ferrari. Initially he got some flack (which everybody noted for being unreasonable) for not being his "old self" but his post-retirement career has been respectable. Fortunately, this made Kimi Raikkonen's return to the sport easier as people accepted that they couldn't expect too much - his post-retirement career has been equally respectable.
      • In Brazil, anyone after Senna - Rubens Barrichello in particular got some flack from being the new Brazilian driver but unlike Senna not having his prowess, powerful car or luck, until, that is, he pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat by beating The Stig!
      • In the UK this has an odd occurrence, having produced so many successful drivers means that not one of them is overwhelmingly considered to be the greatest (Moss, Clark, Stewart, Hill and Mansell all being equally well regarded for example) but the commentary partnership of Murray Walker and James Hunt (or Martin Brundle) and the BBC's use of "The Chain" as the theme song for the coverage are so etched into the public mind that any other suggestions will always be compared to that.
    • Every Brazilian National Football (Soccer) Team after the Pelé-led team of Mexico 1970. The winning teams of 1994 and 2002 have come close, but since Korea-Japan the team has been increasingly beaten in any World Cup they are in, leading to the "Verde-amarela"'s infamous 7x1 loss against Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
    • Argentina and the "Maradona Curse": Diego Maradona's infamous doping-related retirement in the 1994 World Cup led to the downfall of the same team which had won two World Cups in 1978 and 1986, and the last two (South) America Cups, their 1993 championship being the most recent trophy for the "Albiceleste". And while they got the upper hand in Brazil '14, they werer crushed by Germany in the finals, while beaten one year later by Chile in the 2015 Copa América (and one year later as well in the "Centennial Cup"). This has gotten to the point Messi has been mocked for his subpar performance for his national team while being Barcelona's superstar.
    • Also in soccer: the USA women's national team after the groundbreaking World Cup champions of 1999. Despite four Olympic golds since then, the current women still haven't gotten out from under the shadow of the 1999 team. The 2011 World Cup team came close, but lost to Japan in the final. In 2015 however, the US beat Germany, being their first Cup in 16 years.
    • English examples. England's 1966 World Cup winning squad (The Brit team of later years has been more notorious for its failures). Liverpool in the 1980's (They have not won a league title since 1990!) Manchester United's 1999 Treble winning side, Arsenal's Invincibles from 2004.
    • The New York Yankees will never be as loved as when they had Babe Ruth. They probably will never even be as loved as when they had Mickey Mantle. Respected, maybe. Feared, yes...
    • Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, called his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series to complete an upset of the Yankees "a curse in disguise." He was never a prolific hitter, and outside of Pirates fans, people saw only that home run, not realizing he is the best defensive second baseman to have ever played the game.
    • Roger Maris, after breaking Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs claimed the rest of his career would have been "a helluva lot more fun" had he never done that.
    • Any league with a salary cap essentially forces this as any team with a surprisingly good year is forced to get rid of half their players since they're now demanding pay raises, especially if they win the championship. Aversions happen in teams that are centered around a few key players or have excellent general managers.
  • Any sensational record in any sports.
    • At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m. Prior to this, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm; Beamon's jump bettered the existing record by 55 cm. The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event." The record stood until 1991. Beamon himself never won another Olympic medal.
  • The absolutely daunting task that any future Olympic Games swimmer will have to face if they try to defeat Michael Phelps' record in Beijing 2008 of winning 8 gold medals in a single Olympics. As of Rio 2016, with 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze) to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian EVER in any event. And to top it off, by surpassing the 12 individual titles won by Leonidas of Rhodes in 152 BC, he also broke a 2168-year-old record set during the Ancient Olympic Games themselves.
  • Jamaica is already desperately searching for its next Usain Bolt, with him making it clear that the Rio Olympics are his last and not wanting to lose their well-established sprint dominance.
  • As for personal tough acts to follow, quintuple Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykänen is a particularly sad case — not only did his sports career plummet with his failure in adopting the modern V style, so did his life. From The Other Wiki: since the 1990s, his status as a celebrity has mainly been fuelled (...) by his colourful personal relationships, his "career" as a "singer," and various incidents often related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour.
  • Brett Favre, after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, had the best season of his career, almost taking the team to the Super Bowl. The second season with them... well...
  • When Andy Roddick won his first Grand Slam and became the World No. 1 in 2003, he was expected to continue the dominant American Tennis tradition on the heels of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Unfortunately, Roger Federer shot to the top of the tennis world soon after and Roddick would never again win a Slam or hold the No. 1 position, but it's a sure bet that even if Federer hadn't been around to beat Roddick in four Slam finals, he would still have been doomed to fall short of Sampras's 14 Slams and Agassi's 8 in spite of being good enough to be included in the Tennis Channel's list of top 100 players.
  • In 2012, Novak Djokovic won one Grand Slam, the year-end championships, a total of six titles, and finished the year as No. 1, which would qualify as an incredible season by any reasonable standard — but since this came right after his otherworldly 2011 season in which he won three Grand Slams and went undefeated for over 40 matches, the general consensus of his 2012 season was that it was "good, but not as good as his 2011 season."
  • The 70s dynasty of the "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers is not only hard to follow for the franchise itself, but also for most teams in the NFL, even the ones that succeeded in creating Super Bowl winning dynasties themselves. In the case of the Super Bowl, it's called the "Super Bowl Hangover"; the New England Patriots were the last back-to-back Super Bowl Champions, and, until the 2014 season, were the last team to win a playoff game after winning the Super Bowl the previous season. The latter part was broken by the 2014 Seahawks, who made Super Bowl XLIX, but lost to the Patriots.
  • It's common in season previews to treat the last champion that retained its core players with "anything less than a repeat will be a disappointment for fans".
  • Any athlete who is the son or daughter of a sporting legend will be compared to their parent.
  • With the conclusion of Rugby World Cup 2015, with the New Zealand Team - The All Blacks - standing victorious once again, the retirement of rugby legends Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu and Tony Woodcock has rugby fans feeling this trope deeply.
  • The 2000 US Women's gymnastics team faced this going into the Sydney Games, knowing that they would be unlikely to measure up. Indeed, the team failed to medal—the bronze medal that they were eventually awarded was given ten years later and by default. While the 2016 team averted this, winning gold just like its predecessor (and performing even better), it's safe to say the 2020 team might suffer from this too.

    Theater 
  • Gilbert and Sullivan struggled with this after the mega-hit, The Mikado. Gilbert darkly suggested renaming their next operetta, Ruddigore, to Kensington Gore: Or, Not Quite So Good as The Mikado. Ruddigore was erroneously considered a flop in Gilbert's lifetime (the original run of Ruddigore was 288 performances, good by any standard except comparison to the 672 performances in the original run of The Mikado); Special Effect Failure on its opening night may have contributed to its underwhelming reception. 20th century revivals restored the work's reputation.
  • Meredith Willson's first Broadway musical, The Music Man, achieved great popular and critical success. Of his three subsequent musicals, each was less successful and less distinguished than the previous one, with his final show (1491) closing before reaching Broadway.
  • Mitch Leigh had an even worse record: all the musicals he wrote after Man of La Mancha were atrocious flops.
  • Pietro Mascagni, whose fame rests on his debut Cavalleria Rusticana, went on to compose another 14 operas. All are forgotten by the time of his death. It is especially lamentable because, as the rare revivals attest, some of these works (like Iris and Il piccolo Marat) show great artistic vision and experimentation. But sorry, the public is looking for another Cav.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is this for Andrew Lloyd Webber — while several of his subsequent shows did decent/fine business in his native England (Sunset Boulevard also did well in the U.S.), he's never had another international sensation along the lines of Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, or Phantom. In 2010 he brought out a sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, but its reception has been extremely mixed.
  • For Lerner and Loewe, one reason Camelot disappointed so many people was that it was their follow-up to the sensation that was My Fair Lady.
  • Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Misérables with Miss Saigon, a critical and popular smash that introduced the world to a seventeen-year-old Filipina phenom named Lea Salonga. But not even Miss Saigon can top the longest-running, best-written, best-loved, best-known, and quite possibly best musical ever produced. Interestingly, Les Mis is so good that no one really cares what Boublil and Schonberg have gotten up to since - they wrote Les Mis and are therefore entitled to write whatever else they damn please.
  • Even though Stephen Schwartz was well known at the time, this could almost be said to apply to Wicked. Nothing he did before it even comes close to Wicked 's level of popularity and revivals of some of his older work (notably Godspell which is returning to Broadway) now carry the advertisement: "From the creator of Wicked" (with occasionally Pippin being mentioned as an afterthought).

    Toys 
  • The story of BIONICLE was so, well, huge, that its successor line Hero Factory gets a considerable amount of hate for its bare-bones, simple-to-follow plot and minimalistic characterization. Complainers tend to overlook the fact that even so, HF's story is still a tad more complex than that of an average, non-licensed LEGO line, and its characters are among the most developed of any original-LEGO characters (if still far from Bionicle's). LEGO themselves consider HF a wholly separate entity — a line that occupies the same niche as Bionicle, but it's not a follow-up. Further, they deliberately set out to avoid creating another complicated universe such as that of Bionicle, partly because of this trope, but mostly because a simpler story is easier to promote to younger kids, which the Periphery Demographic has a hard time realizing.

    Video Games 
  • The PS2 entries for Ace Combat are considered to be the highlights of that series, with the games only getting better from Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies to Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. Now, there's been some disagreement about which of those three games was the best of that era, but they have collectively overshadowed every other entry in the series and have hounded every new entry since.
  • Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is not called a bad game, but considering it was a follow-up to one of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling 3D platformers of all time, being what is considered the masterpiece of Ubisoft, its critical reception and sales did not live up to the previous game. Some have speculated that Rayman 3's underwhelming performance was why Rayman 4 was retooled from another 3D platformer into the mini-game-centric Rayman Raving Rabbids, as well as why another Rayman platformer was put on ice for years until Rayman Origins came around.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Red and Blue is considered the definitive incarnation of the franchise to most people, with the first 151 Pokémon are still the most iconic of them all. The series, while still remaining popular, never came close to recapturing the original games' mainstream ubiquity until the 2016 mobile game.
    • To hardcore fans, however, Pokémon Gold and Silver are viewed as even better than their predecessors, and the best in the series until their Generation IV remakes. While still being good, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire having to follow them up was viewed as somewhat of a burden. The fact that they downplayed the time factor and excluded many Pokémon didn't help matters either.
    • Generation V had a hard time following itself. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, despite introducing loads of new features, were also received partly unfavorably by both critics and the fans for not being what Pokémon Black and White were (lacking the story that what made the original games, and traces of difficulty).
    • On a similar note, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has been highly regarded for its story and gameplay elements that variate from the main series. However, the 3DS installment Gates to Infinity has also received quite a bit of panning from fans for not being what the first two were; most complaints being in regards to the story (which is considered by most to be weaker than Explorers) and the small number of Pokémon available as starter/partner choices and for recruitment.
    • Pokémon X and Y had it even tougher than Black 2 and White 2. While the plot isn't bad by any means, it didn't stand a chance compared to Black/White, which are widely agreed to have had the best plot of the series. The fact that the game also introduced only about 70 Pokémon, the least of any generation, was also all the more noticeable proceeding Gen V, which introduced over 150, the most of any generation since the originals.
    • An odd character-specific variation occurred with a Pokémon species from Generation IV: Lucario. For whatever reason, Game Freak and Pokémon Co. decided to give it heavy promotion before the release of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (having one in the starring role of the anime's eighth movie and cameos in spin-off games). The marketing push ended up being well-handled enough to actually work, and Lucario quickly became a fan-favorite (it helps its debut movie was well-received by fans, and gamewise it's pretty powerful and is no slouch in the competitive scene). However, this proved to be a double-edged sword to the creators, as every attempt at trying to ape Lucario's success failed either partially or entirely because it couldn't live up to Lucario itself.
  • Chrono Cross was cursed from the beginning to never be as popular as Chrono Trigger, one of the most beloved games ever made.
  • Games designer Will Wright seems to be heading in this direction, considering the general reaction to his latest game, Spore, hasn't been nearly as warm as with his seminal masterpiece, The Sims. The quote from Yahtzee up top is from Zero Punctuation's review of Spore. This is also true for post-Sims entries to the SimCity franchise, though Wright hadn't been involved with those games since at least SimCity 4. Even without Wright at the helm, 4 was critically acclaimed and is widely considered the apex of the series; just not quite as popular as The Sims.
  • Apparently, Hideo Kojima regrets being remembered only for the Metal Gear series, which overshadowed his earlier games and whose shadow looms on every possible future title.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The fandom is "divided," but it's probably safe to say that Final Fantasy VIII didn't live up to what was expected after Final Fantasy VII. Whether or not Final Fantasy VII lived up to what was expected after Final Fantasy VI is the source of many flame wars.
    • There is also a Broken Base regarding whether Final Fantasy V did or didn't live up to what was expected after Final Fantasy IV, which is considered one of the top games in the series, because of its characters and heightened drama typical to many other games of the series. All of these are elements many fans felt the fifth installment of the series lacked. Other fans on the other hand felt that the game featured some of the best gameplay in the series, period, thanks to the evolved Job system, which has served as the basis for that of three spin-off titles: Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Dimensions and Bravely Default (albeit the former is a genre/franchise crossover with Tactics Ogre). Combine all of this with an annual (unofficial) charity run, and you have a franchise darkhorse, making it a tough act to follow of its own, especially when sizing up Dimensions and Default. In the case of Default, however, it is credited for helping revive interest in traditional JRPGs after Square Enix's various attempts at experimentation in the mainline FF series.
    • And then there's Nobuo Uematsu: he has since produced many solid and great video game soundtracks, but after the dozens of anthems to video game awesomeness that pervade the sixth installment, for some people, everything he composed since is fated to be seen as "not as good as FFVI's soundtrack." Uematsu himself considers Final Fantasy IX's OST his masterpiece.
  • BioShock 2 is a decently good game, but it lives in the shadow of BioShock, one of the most renowned and critically acclaimed games of all time. Had it been released as its own animal, it might've gotten decent recognition; as is, it's often seen as little more than a pale imitation, repeating most of the same steps the original took in the hopes of creating the same magic while introducing an element of chaotic multiplayer into a game about fear and isolation. BioShock Infinite, however, averted this and received praise on equal level to the original, some even finding themselves preferring Infinite over the original.
  • Super Metroid set a standard for every subsequent game in the Metroid series and (by extension) the Metroidvania genre in general. This was the only reason fans didn't get Metroid 64, as the creator said almost word for word that Super Metroid was a Tough Act to Follow. When the series did return, Metroid Prime was fantastically well-received, smashing through the Polygon Ceiling and successfully switching genres from platformer to FPS while appeasing the fans. Once the Prime subseries ended, the next 3D Metroid title was Metroid: Other M, which had a very hard time following up both Retro Studios' games and Super Metroid.
  • F-Zero GX is hailed as not only the best game in the F-Zero series, but one of Nintendo's best racing games period and one of the best racers of its decade. So when F-Zero GP Legend was released a few years later, it was treated with lukewarm reception at best despite bearing a number of improvements to the sprite-based F-Zero games (although it being a tie-in to a poorly-received F-Zero anime may have something to do with it as well).
  • Deus Ex, naturally. Provided you accept that there were acts that followed it at all; quite a lot of fans don't. The prequel series starting with Human Revolution started being held to the same standard as the original; considered an all-round fantastic game, the follow-up Mankind Divided now (unsurprisingly) has quite a few fans struggling to invest hype in it for fear of a repeat let down.
  • One of the reasons why Duke Nukem Forever festered as long in development as it did, according to a Wired article, was simply because 3D Realms wanted their game to be as groundbreaking as Duke Nukem 3D was back in its day. As a result, they were constantly adding more and more new features into the game, upgrading the technology and occasionally starting the entire project from scratch because what they had wasn't up to par, until they ran out of funding in 2009 and Gearbox finished off what they had two years later.
  • Donkey Kong Country:
  • In hindsight, Harmonix choosing to craft their first single-artist Rock Band game around the musical output of The Beatles might have been a poorly considered move in the long term, because no matter how great your music is, it's very, very difficult to find another group as universally beloved as The Beatles. So who did they pick for their next game? Green Day. After making two overwhelmingly popular franchises (the aforementioned Rock Band and Dance Central), Harmonix announced that they were making a game based off of Disney's legendary Fantasia films. So far what they had shown failed to impress fans as the gameplay requires you to use your arms rather than using your whole body like in Dance Central. And the song count is quite low compared to their other games. Fans are still waiting for the next Dance Central or Rock Band to be announced.
  • The Paper Mario series is falling apart because of the role-playing game Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door being a Tough Act to Follow, with its good battle system, horde of Ensemble Darkhorses, Awesome Music, and hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes sad plotline. Nintendo feared It's the Same, Now It Sucks for its sequels, so both Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star both underwent an Unexpected Genre Change, to platformer and sticker-collecting Metroidvania respectively. Fans missed the classic elements and are still longing for a true successor today. While the former was eventually Vindicated by History, the latter wasn't so lucky.
  • At this point, the entire Castlevania series is trapped in the shadow of the Symphony of the Night for most. On the other hand, Aria of Sorrow was really well-received for a unique battle system of collecting souls from defeated enemies (at random), a less crufty castle design, and a great Tomato Surprise Plot Twist of the game's protagonist. Its direct sequel, Dawn of Sorrow, improved upon the game balance in many ways while not straying much, though received a bit of flak for the grinding of souls needed for upgrading weapons and the souls themselves, as well as the seals needed to destroy the bosses. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is often considered either It's the Same, Now It Sucks or It's Easy, so It Sucks, and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is, while well-received (and Nintendo Hard), a form of a stale formula. The game after that was the Lords of Shadow Continuity Reboot.
  • Most of the Classic Mega Man series' sequels (and their soundtracks) generally aren't considered quite as good and memorable as Mega Man 2. 9, however, was good enough to revive the series and rival 2's level of quality and popularity. This naturally became apparent, once 10 came out, divided the fanbase again and performed below sales expectations. The only real alternatives to MM2 you'll see fans frequently mention are Mega Man 3 (which counts as Magnum Opus Dissonance, given Keiji Inafune's thoughts on the game's development) and Mega Man V, and when discussing sequel series Mega Man X, the only title seen on equal footing with the first is Mega Man X4.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is generally considered to be one of the greatest games in the franchise, and by many outside of it one of the greatest games ever. Future games in the series, while still very good, garner complaints because of how unlike (or, sometimes, how like) Ocarina of Time they are. Some of the later games, like Majora's Mask and The Wind Waker, were succesfully Vindicated by History, but in the grand scale of the series' lifetime they still suffered from the high bar left by the 1998 title.
  • Silent Hill:
    • The series has struggled in the shadow of its second incarnation through four sequels, numerous comics and its film release. Silent Hill 2 is widely regarded as the definitive installment, which tragically influenced its subsequent media by having various elements recur when they were either unwelcome or poorly implemented (Sexy Monster Nurses, Pyramid Head, solipsistic protagonists fighting through suppressed trauma). Even Team Silent's third and fourth game failed to enthrall the wider public as their predecessor did.
    • Akira Yamaoka, the composer for seven of the Silent Hill games, and sound director responsible for most of the hair-raising sounds in the first three games, also made for a big shadow over the series after he left Konami.
  • Infinty Ward's first two games were critical and commercial successes. Then they released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. They turned a good-selling series into a Cash Cow Franchise, perfected the single player experience, changed the perception of the "generic shooter" from World War II to modern, and created the possibly the most addictive multiplayer system of all time. Both Treyarch and I-Dub have had trouble following that act.
  • Tecmo Bowl had this happen after Tecmo Super Bowl was released for the NES. In 1993, they released a sequel (not a port, contrary to popular belief), also named Tecmo Super Bowl for the SNES and Mega Drive (Genesis). One of the main reasons was because of the roster changes from the 1990 season to the 1993 preseason. Many teams and players got better or worse, such as Dallas improved the most and Chicago got worse. One common complaint was the three-season mode, where you play three seasons in a row with one team to get a better ending. Of course, it's an optional feature.
  • This is one of many ways one can describe what's happened to Sonic the Hedgehog. The original three games (this is taking Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together as the complete title) and Sonic CD are hailed effectively universally as the shining gems of the series (and fantastic examples of high speed platforming in general). Many subsequent games have been trying to get out of this shadow, some (like the Adventure games) to far better results than others (such as the disastrous 2006 title), and even then each one has an unfortunately strong Fandom Rivalry to go with it. It eventually started dying down with Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, which have been very well received by critics. Even most fans consider the two to be well done. Naturally, these two games combined to create another tough act to follow when Sonic Lost World was released. Although that game was at least considered far superior to the Sonic Boom games that followed.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The original Yoshi's Island was a great game, seen as a classic entry in the Mario series in all respects. However, Yoshi's Story and Yoshi's Island DS, despite being good games on their own, got incredibly badly overshadowed by the original, to the point of the former being ripped apart for not being the same style and general gameplay as Yoshi's Island. They listened with Yoshi's New Island, but then people started complaining It's the Same, Now It Sucks.
  • Most succeeding installments from the Super Robot Wars series are generally regarded as better than their predecessors, at least when it comes to the same platform. Super Robot Wars W for the Nintendo DS is a fan favorite, featuring a great cast of series and well-liked original characters. Super Robot Wars K, on the other hand, had a myriad of problems, alongside increased difficulty and standardization of many game mechanics. Many players didn't sit well with K when they thoroughly enjoyed W.
  • This can be said of the Heaven's Feel scenario for Fate/stay night as on top of the issues it has (due to time constraints), it follows up the very Popular Unlimited Blade Works scenario. This also applies to the heroines of both, Rin and Sakura with the latter's lack of real development causing some fans to see her as The Scrappy.
  • The Dragon Age series sometimes comes across as this. The original game was heralded as a return to the good old days of the CRPG, a spiritual successor to the storied Baldur's Gate franchise. The sequel is a good game on its own merits but often fares poorly when compared to its predecessor. Dragon Age: Inquisition on the other hand...
  • Just trying to live up to the first Knights of the Old Republic; the Obsidian-made second game is a point of contention that was unfortunately rushed for a Christmas release. Star Wars: The Old Republic is breaking the base not just for being an MMO, but also because some of the game's Backstory turned that epic first game into a textbook Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
  • Golden Sun was a fantastic two-part series ending on so many plot hooks the fans clamored for a sequel. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, released years later, didn't quite live up to the legacy.
  • The first Streets of Rage was a decent counter to Final Fight. However, Streets of Rage 2 would easily be the best game in the series and one of the best games on the Sega Genesis and among beat-em-ups in general. Streets of Rage 3, even with its added features like cut-scenes, was seen as inferior to 2.
  • Depending on who you ask, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the best game in the The Elder Scrolls series. The fight began at Morrowind's release, and continues to this very instant with only the original not having many people argue in its favor.
  • While Fable III still got favorable reviews, it wasn't as good as the second. Possibly because one of the most common complaints was how they changed the gaming mechanic.
  • Many of the complaints about Total War: Rome II are essentially this: it's a pretty good game in its own right, but it's the immediate follow up to one of the best games in the series and a remake of the other best game in the series.
  • While Drakengard 3 is accepted by the fans as a worthy sequel to the main games, it came after NieR which is regarded as the series' masterpiece and Drakengard 3 being unable to live up to that game's legacy.
  • Lemmings 2: The Tribes improved on its predecessors in many ways (and added many new abilities) — so many, in fact, that almost every other game in the series (typically Mission Pack Sequels to the original with some added gimmick, such as 3D environments or touch screen mechanics) has been generally considered So Okay, It's Average by the fanbase.
  • Arc System Works are responsible for Guilty Gear, a series that has a respectable place among the Fighting Game Community for its unique mechanics compared to other franchises like Street Fighter, with a very rock and roll-inspired art style and atmosphere that many appreciated. They would lose the rights to the series years later, but not wanting to discontinue their fighting game resume, they made a Spiritual Successor named BlazBlue. The series does well enough in its own country to not qualify for this trope, but in America? It has a massive stigma against it for being "Anime!Guilty Gear," mostly due to its more Shonen-influenced character designs, slower and simpler gameplay (that counterintuitively requires a far steeper learning curve than GG ever did, at least on paper), and very confusing Cliché Storm of a narrative (not helped by several crucial supplemental materials not making it out of Japan note ). All BlazBlue did was just make the fanbase want another Guilty Gear after years of updated releases (and one very unorthodox sequel in the form of GG2: Overture) rather than a new series entirely. When a true follow-up was received in the form of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, American reception to BlazBlue's latest releases was mostly lukewarm as the hype for a new Guilty Gear was felt all throughout the community.
  • There's a reason the SNES, with its robust game library, iconic gamepad, and impressive 2D visuals, is hailed by many Nintendo fans as not just Nintendo's greatest game console of all time but their last great one: Every console Nintendo has put out after has had elements that fans find highly questionable and has them pining for the 8- and 16-bit days of good ol' Ninty. The Nintendo 64 was ill-received due to Nintendo's choice to continue using expensive cartridges instead of a disc-based format and a controller that is seen by many as the worst controller design Nintendo has ever put out. The Nintendo GameCube suffers from a poor third-party library compared to its three competitors. Although the Wii was more successful than the last two, its Waggle-bait motion controls and non-standard controller design on top of its perceived Shovelware library made many gamers see it ultimately as a joke. The Wii U is faring decently in spite of a very rough start, but Nintendo's falling back onto existing IPs for new games and a continued lack of third-party support makes some gamers still skeptical about modern-day Nintendo.
  • Take Nintendo's legacy and make the decline far, far worse, and you have Sega. The Sega Mega Drive, or Sega Genesis as North Americans know it, was seen as the console to have in the early 90s if you didn't want a SNES, or had one but felt like getting another console anyway—an excellent library and strong processing power make it a great platform, especially if you enjoy fast-paced games. However, Sega just kept slipping and slipping afterwards. The Sega Saturn was marred by its developer-unfriendliness especially for 3D titles in a period when 3D gaming was really starting to take off, as well as a decision to release it in North America early, pissing off many retailers and third-party developers, and Bernie Stolar running the system into the ground. Sega did manage to briefly get back in the groove with the Sega Dreamcast, but a number of reasons, such as the hype for the PlayStation 2 a few years later, prevented it from becoming the next Mega Drive and killed off Sega's days as a console industry force once and for all.
  • Nintendo's 1989 Game Boy version of Tetris, at least in the West, has yet to be topped by any newer version of Tetris in terms of iconic status, even though many newer versions introduce new modes and gameplay-streamlining features.
  • Fire Emblem's Tellius duology was popular and loved for many reasons: strong characters, plenty of Ho Yay and Les Yay, diversity and variety in character types, a strong feminist undercurrent as many of the major territories ended up being ruled by female characters. Because of this, several hardcore fans considered Shadow Dragon and Awakening to be inferior though which was worse depends on said hardcore fan.
    • Action Girl Lyn of Blazing Sword was the first female lead character Western audiences were exposed to, causing some fans to consider the Skilled, but Naďve and more feminine Princess Eirika of Sacred Stones to be a step backward and antifeminist to boot.
  • While both later installments in the Batman: Arkham Series were still well received, they wound up having the misfortune of coming after the universally acclaimed Batman: Arkham City, still considered to be the best game in the series. Origins had to deal with having a different developer working on the game rather than Rocksteady, with many feeling that the gameplay didn't really change much up and finding it to be much glitchier than normal. Knight had Rocksteady as the developers again, but that one had several Batmobile segments taking up a good portion of the game which many felt was a Scrappy Mechanic, as well as Paul Dini not returning to pen the story, causing several people to feel it was much weaker than the previous games' stories, including Origins interestingly enough.
  • Mad Max is an unusual cross-media example of this. Despite being an entirely separate project, it had the misfortune of coming out the exact same year as Mad Max: Fury Road, the first Mad Max film in 30 years, and one that not only brought acclaim and attention to the franchise that had never been seen before, but also acclaim rarely seen in the action genre, being immediately praised as one of the best action movies of all time. Even with a completely different story and concept and being a decent game in its own right, it still had to go through being compared to a masterpiece of a completely different medium in a number of reviews.
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the third game of the Splinter Cell series, managed to be the second entry to totally outdo its predecessor back when the series was considered a pioneer of the stealth genre. Come fourth installment, Double Agent, the game was changed up entirely with a convoluted plot booting Sam Fisher from his agency to act as a mole in a terrorist cell, and added several unpopular gimmicks (including a Karma Meter and needlessly difficult daytime missions). Met with the first lukewarm response for the series, Ubisoft decided to go for a total change up: after several changes and delays spanning years, the series finally received an Actionized Sequel that was flat out hated by parts of the fanbase. This was then followed with Michael Ironside leaving as the iconic protagonist, meaning that as much as Ubisoft tried to fix things with Blacklist, the repeat of a mixed response means the series is indefinitely on hold.
  • Gradius V is hailed as one of the best games in the series, alongside Gradius Gaiden. So when Gradius ReBirth was released four years later, most players wrote it off for a number of reasons, such as only having 5 stages and not being as theatrical as Gradius V.
  • Pixel (Daisuke Amaya) will probably never be able to top his best-received game Cave Story's success and recognition. His next game, the arcadey Kero Blaster, was praised by the press as a well-made and engaging game, but it barely made a blip among the gaming community. It doesn't even have a page on this wiki at the moment.
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • The best installment of the Ace Attorney series is generally considered to be Trials and Tribulations. All later games heavily split the fandom but are almost never considered better. In terms of individual cases, most would say the best is either "Bridge to the Turnabout" from Trials and Tribulations or "Farewell, My Turnabout" from Justice for All. All other cases have their high points compared to those of these cases.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne set the gold standard for mainline Shin Megami Tensei games, featuring outstanding three-dimensional visuals, challenging difficulty that never lets up, six different endings rather than just the traditional Law/Neutral/Chaos branches including an ultimate ending where you personally become Lucifer's right-hand man, and Dante from the Devil May Cry series. As a result, Shin Megami Tensei IV had a lot to live up to, and that was just from mainline fansnote ; complaints include the step back to 2D sprites and portraits, the difficulty reduction even on Master difficulty, and the removal of the defense stat.

    Web Animation 
  • Death Battle: Being by far the most requested, longest, most extensively researched and most viewed of the Death Battle series to date, "Goku vs. Superman" casts a massive shadow over the rest of the series in terms of production, scale and fan excitement. Not that the other episodes aren't enjoyable, but they're more Overshadowed by Awesome. In a more Meta sense, Death Battle is this to every other series ScrewAttack has tried to release — after it was announced that the matchup after "Yang Xiao Long vs. Tifa Lockhart" would be revealed in the season finale for The Industry, many fans deliberately spoiled the ending of the episode by writing the matchup in the comments along with a message along the lines of "There, now you don't have to watch all this just to find out the next Death Battle. You're welcome!"
  • In Mexico, the creator and animator Rulo Barrera has made several web shows and shorts in the past years, but none else compared when he made "El Consultorio del Dr. Goku" an flash animated show were Goku and Vegeta answered questions of real people e-mailed to him in many hilarious ways. With the 9th episode the series were definitively over but any subsequent series or short got the boot from fans and were not as half as popular like Dr. Goku was forcing a short sequel named Dr. Goku 2012 were he ran as president of mexico, then he got other special in the holidays, then another shorter special after, after that due to high demand and poor reception, Rulo made a new Youtube channel and boot up Dr. Goku with a new format, a live talk show (like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast) but flopped badly and then come with a newer format, an slice of life like adventures of him much shorter than the original episodes.
  • Dr. Havoc's Diary is unfortunately overshadowed by the more popular and well-known The Most Popular Girls in School. Though to be fair, the former is only watchable on a subscription site (Fullscreen) while the latter is everywhere on Youtube.

    Web Comics 
  • Sean Howard has provided this as the reason why he's not writing any more webcomics. A Modest Destiny got very popular for getting very dark, and when he entered emotional recovery he didn't feel he could write like that any more. However, when he tries to write anything more lighthearted, he gets hate letter after hate letter from people demanding that he finish AMD rather than "waste time" on his new project.

    Web Original 
  • When Doug Walker retired The Nostalgia Critic after four years of internet fame in order to pursue a show that he'd been dreaming of doing for ages, the fan-base was split to say the least, with some enjoying it some thinking it wasn't as good as the Nostalgia Critic and others disliking it entirely. This divide ended up cutting into the show's profits and resulted in the return of the Critic, much to the dismay of Doug Walker himself, who loved Demo Reel, and wanted to focus on that project of his dreams; instead having to torch the thing and bring back the character everybody else wanted.
  • Honest Trailers by Screen Junkies consistently generates 1 million+ views for the channel. Other videos they produce, including Movie Fights can rarely exceed the 500k mark.
  • The monumental success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014 has yet to be replicated. The challenge returned in August 2015 but wasn't even 1/100th as popular as it was in 2014. Many other social media fads have been started; the only one that truly took off was "The Dress", and even then it wasn't nearly as big as the Ice Bucket Challenge. It's agreed that a phenomenon like the Ice Bucket Challenge can't be forced, but rather will have to take off organically through word of mouth.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars had such a devoted and passionate fanbase that when Beast Machines premiered, it was held to an impressively high standard and unfortunately, in the eyes of many fans, did not meet expectations. And since then, Beast Wars has become almost like a measuring stick for newer Transformers shows to be compared to.
    • The Transformers franchise suffers from this as a whole. Despite numerous reboots the 1984 series is considered the definitive version. Any new version is compared to it and rarely passes. Even Beast Wars, the most successful reboot had hatedom for a while ("Trukk not munky", et al).
    • One of the reasons why this situation results in numerous arguments among fans is because the Generation 1 show and Beast Wars are seen as "the standard" for different reasons by different people. G1 for many fans is the definition of Transformers — its concepts, the characters, the designs, the overall "feeling" of the show is what hard-core fans want to re-experience in every new cartoon. Beast Wars, on the other hand (and nowadays Transformers Animated and Transformers Prime as well), is used as a comparison point because it is a generally good, solid, quality production. In short, part of the fandom strives for the preservation of details between the different TF iterations, while the other isn't so concerned about these, just want a show that's good in its own right.
    • Another Transformers show that gets this is Transformers: Robots in Disguise, which directly follows the generally well-regarded Transformers Prime. The general consensus is that trying to be a sequel to Prime is Ri D's entire problem; if taken as its own story that just happens to be set in the same continuity, it's pretty enjoyable and fun. However if taken as an epic continuation of Prime, as the creators described it, than it stumbles badly, as Ri D largely leaves Prime alone, merely using that show as a source of backstory.
  • Many of the revivals of Looney Tunes have suffered from trying to live up to the quality of the original Golden Age theatrical cartoons. That said, Space Jam and The Looney Tunes Show tried to avert this by intentionally going in a different direction from the original shorts (sans the new Wile E Coyote CG shorts)—the latter show's producers even admitted that they did this because they realized by that point that trying to imitate the original cartoons would only lead to more failures. Some were happy, but most were not.
  • The Flintstones: The first succesful animated sitcom on TV proved particularly difficult to top, even for Hanna & Barbera themselves. They tried with The Jetsons, but it never caught on quite the same way. Virtually every Hanna & Barbera animated TV series after that failed to duplicate the enormous success The Flintstones had with both adults and children. Scooby-Doo was the closest they got in duplicating the commercial success, but it was definitely more of a children's show and also received that way by adults. Eventually the first animated TV sitcom hit to surpass the success of The Flintstones with children and adults would be The Simpsons.
  • The Simpsons is another example of this trope. Many animated series have tried to duplicate its succesful format, but none have become quite the commercial and critical success with both children and adults. Yes, South Park and Family Guy have both become commercial hits, but strictly with adults and both of them are too crass and lowbrow vulgar for mainstream audiences, whereas The Simpsons has somewhat of a more dignified stature, especially among adults. Even Matt Groening's own followup, Futurama, failed to attract the same colossal audience and is still nothing more than a Cult Classic, cancelled and revived several times in a row.
  • South Park has broken so much taboos and shocked so many audiences that no other TV series, animated or live-action, has been able to create a similar Refuge in Audacity show and stay on the air as long as they did. And even their imitators and successors don't dare to go as far as Trey Parker and Matt Stone often go in their subject matter.
  • The Un-Canceled Family Guy has had similar problems living up to its first few seasons.
  • Batman:
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man is based on the original Spider-Man stories with a similar balance of action, drama and humor, it also tends to use material from all eras of the comic's run and other sources such as the film series and the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. The series updated characters and stories for the 21st century while still being very faithful to its characters in the comics, and managed to fit a relatively high amount of depth. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures Television's rights to Spidey expired, which resulted in a premature cancellation, and the rise of a new cartoon: Ultimate Spider-Man. Several Marvel fans find that it doesn't take itself very seriously, and the characters don't seem as endearing. The high level of Cutaway Gags and running gags in Ultimate Spider-Man can make it unbearable to sit through for viewers wanting more drama and/or characterization.
  • The first animated Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, attracted half of the nation's TV viewers of its time, won a Pulitzer Prize, and continues to air every winter to this day. The second, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, didn't win any awards, and only airs sporadically these days. The fact Charlie Brown's second most popular TV special came a few months afterward probably pushed it even deeper into obscurity.
  • Avengers Assemble has the misfortune of following The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! among cartoons based on The Avengers. After the series' announcement, fans already felt like cursing Marvel Animation for not going beyond 52 episodes of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, despite the fact the announcement said nothing more than, "A new Avengers cartoon will come next year."
  • When Recess premiered in 1997 as one of the premiere shows of One Saturday Morning, it attracted a huge fanbase (most being a part of the Periphery Demographic) and critical acclaim, as well as being nominated for many awards (and winning one), getting a very successful movie (and two direct-to-video films), and gaining various types of merchandise, while the rest of the shows on the block eventually faded into obscurity. In 2001, the creators made another show for the block, Lloyd in Space, which despite getting very good ratings and reception, it never matched the popularity Recess had (and eventually got Screwed by the Network). The later Pound Puppies series from the same creators is also not looked on upon as fondly as Recess.
  • John Kricfalusi hit the proverbial jackpot with the amazing success of Ren and Stimpy in the 1990s. Most, if not all, of his subsequent cartoons have been widely panned, or at best receive a So Okay, It's Average response.
  • While Avatar: The Last Airbender is widely beloved, both the comic book continuation The Promise, The Search, and the sequel series The Legend of Korra had a more mixed reception, and while generally considered to be good, are rarely considered to be equal to the original series.
  • The original Fox seasons of Futurama have built a reputation as a Sacred Cow, with a rabid fanbase hailing them as dripping with perfection. Both the Direct-to-Video miniseries' and especially the Comedy Central seasons have been doomed to the highest levels of scrutiny in comparison.
  • Many fans feel that the Un-Cancelled Fairly OddParents and T.U.F.F. Puppy do not measure up to Butch Hartman's past creations, especially since he set the bar so high with Danny Phantom.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse had this problem with its villains. For Big Bad, the first season had Malware, a terrifying and intelligent Knight of Cerebus who was beloved by fans and had the unique gimmick of being an evil mechamorph trying to make his own Omnitrix. After him, none of the other villains were able to capture the same level of interest; the Incurseans, Albedo, the Rooters, Maltruant, and even classic baddies like Vilgax and Zs'Skayr just couldn't compare to him. His departure from the series is cited as one big reason the show went through Seasonal Rot.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Darker and Edgier, character and plot-driven, generally the most serious version of Scooby-Doo to ever show up on a screen, and was generally well-received. An elephant couldn't fill the shoes that the light-hearted, more comedic, and Denser and Wackier follow-up Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! has to fill.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The Season Five finale "The Cutie Re-Mark Parts 1 and 2", while by no means horrible, is this towards the Season Four finale "Twilight's Kingdom Parts 1 and 2" due to the fact that the Season Four finale had so much high-octane action, characters, twists, adventure, and stakes that kept building up over Season 4 and before it. "The Cutie Re-Mark" seems much more subdued and anti-climactic in comparison as it lacks most if not all of these traits, with the Mane Five and other important characters being demoted to background characters and Twilight Sparkle being thrust into the spotlight once again being a particular sore spot among viewers. Other aspects like Starlight Glimmer, her backstory, and the resolution only made things tougher for it.
    • Twilight's Kingdom also made spectacularly radical changes to the show's formula and Status Quo to really send the season off with a bang. The Cutie Remark on the other hand, didn't really make overly big changes.
    • Starlight Glimmer's backstory was also a case of this: her motive of "I lost a friend and it ruined everything" was practically identical to Moondancer's from "Amending Fences", which is almost universally considered to be the highest point and most emotional moment of the entire season: good luck following that.
    • Twilight's Kingdom also offered the Heel–Face Turn of another villain (Discord) that was viewed as very well done, making Starlight Glimmer's, despite it being a bigger focus, come off as lacking.
    • Season 5 in general is seen as a tough act to follow to Season 4, which was seen as a return to form for the show. From the afformentioned characters, Starlight Glimmer, and the Season finale, Season 5 is a hot point of contention because of the lack of any forward planning and interesting arcs and stories Season 4 hadnote  The mid-season hiatus has not helped matters either.
  • For a while many felt that Kim Possible was Disney Channel's last great show and that the channel fell into a rut since, with Phineas and Ferb being the only good show that was keeping it afloat for years. Fortunately, Gravity Falls was able to live up to the channel's original standards. However, with both Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls having ended within months of each other, the void has returned, barring maybe Star vs. the Forces of Evil.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Most people agree that the newer episodes have greatly suffered in comparison to the gold standard set by the first three seasons before the first movie and Un-Cancellation. The second movie was a return to form, but nevertheless isn't quite as beloved as the show itself. Second-half episodes that had to follow a beloved classic, such as "Home Sweet Pineapple" or "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V", are also seen as this to some people (with first-half episodes like "The Secret Box" seen as the inverse of this).
  • Just about every DC cartoon has had to deal with this since the end of the beloved and influential DC Animated Universe, which was critically acclaimed for its faithful and mature treatment of the source material. Other DC cartoons have had to escape its shadow, which some fans believe they have yet to do.

    Other 
  • The 2016 United States presidential election will be very tough to beat — not in quality, but rather in the once-in-a-lifetime cultural spectacle that that particular election had become.


Alternative Title(s): Big Shoes To Fill

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ToughActToFollow